New foodhub ‘safe, welcoming space for all’

Riversyde83 opens in downtown Simcoe


There’s a large harvest table in the café at Riversyde83 Foodhub.

Virginia Lucas, vice chair of Church Out Serving, the organization behind the unique operation on Sydenham Street, hopes it will become a spot for people of all walks of life to share food and fellowship.

“We’re all neighbours," she said. "We’d be pleased if people of all backgrounds sat down together and had lunch.”

The bright stylish venue – located in 8,000-square-feet of space in the former LCBO on Sydenham Street – is foremost a community centre, a “safe and welcoming space for all,” said Eric Haverkamp, board chair of Church Out Serving. It also has meeting rooms, a stage, a chef ’s kitchen, and a large community kitchen where cooking classes are being held.

The grand opening Friday of Riversyde83, so named for its location along the water at 83 Sydenham, is the culmination of four years of planning and physical labour all done by volunteers, some of whom provided hundreds of hours of “sweat equity.”

The entire cost of the project, which wasn’t disclosed, was covered by financial and in-kind donations from a dozen local service clubs, eight local associations and agencies, more than 20 Norfolk churches, 75 local businesses and many personal contributions.

Some groups wanted their money earmarked for specific items – 100 Women Who Care, for example, contributed a walk-in freezer and helped with its installation, and the District A-2 Lions purchased dozens of chairs. Others made general donations to the project.

Volunteers will be preparing and serving food in the café and, as a pay-it-forward model, “tips at the till” will go to a monthly Church Out Serving program. The organization also operates a community dinner program, community gardens, an out-of-the-cold overnight shelter, and provides frozen meals to those in need.

Riversy de 83 will offer a pay-what-you-can menu for guests with limited means, with net returns invested back into the foodhub and other charitable activities.

“We can honestly say this project was built for the community by the community,” said Lucas.

Haverkamp said it all stemmed from a need in Simcoe and beyond not just for food and shelter but for social interaction.

“A lot of people don’t have a place to connect with others, a safe place for fellowship and friendship. The cost of loneliness is great. The health affects are intense.”

Before the doors swung open to the public on Friday at noon, donors and volunteers gathered at Riversyde 83 for food samples, tours and a lots of praise.

“We are humbled by your generosity,” Haverkamp told the large crowd.

Construction volunteers clocked 18,000 onsite hours to the project. Four of them were specially honoured on Friday for their “massive” contributions, including John Cherchak, who gave 2,400.25 hours of his time; Ross Gibbons (1,736.75 hours); Ross Gowan (1,544.25 hours) and Gord Field (999.50 hours).

“Had I known that, I would have stayed half an hour later one day,” Field joked about just missing the 1,000-hour mark.

Field’s daughter lives in Simcoe and is involved in Church Out Serving. She thought her father, who had just retired from his job as a project manager at Sobey’s, could bring his skills to Riversyde83. Not only was he onsite just shy of 1,000 hours scheduling material delivery and ensuring drawings were followed, he spent countless hours doing the same from his London home.

“It’s all about the mission,” he said. “This building is meant to change people’s lives.”

Riversyde will be open Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.






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