The Week — Dec. 15

Rainbow Kitchen plans last supper, tips for how to give (and get on) the charity tree

The Rainbow Kitchen will serve its last supper on Dec. 23, before being evicted due to the sale of the building.

The Rainbow Kitchen will serve its last supper on Dec. 23, before being evicted due to the sale of the building.

No food under the rainbow

The Last Supper will come early this year — Dec. 23, to be specific — as the Rainbow Kitchen prepares to close its doors after seven years of serving meals to the in-need community.

The kitchen, which was run out of the old St. Saviour Anglican Church on Henry Street in Esquimalt, was given its official eviction notice this last week, after the Anglican Diocese of B.C. lumped the building in with a group of churches to be sold. The sale was finalized just weeks ago, giving the kitchen the boot, just before Christmas.

“We’ve known this was coming for a while, but we were still surprised it happened so fast,” says director Al Lindskoog. “We’ve kept operating in limbo, knowing everything could change, but it was a pretty quiet dinner when we had to break the news to everyone.”

The volunteer-run kitchen had been granted a rent-free stay at the church until the sale, and had received charitable status just last December. The kitchen served between 50 and 150 plates of food daily (except weekends), from noon until 2 p.m., using community donations. The Dec. 23 meal will be the kitchen’s annual Christmas dinner — traditionally complete with carolers, a feast and activities — and will mark the last time the public can eat in the space. The group then must strip the kitchen and move out by Jan. 19.

“Now, our goal is to find a new place,” says Lindskoog, adding that many have a vested interest in seeing the kitchen survive this transition. “We’re not sure how we will handle the component of rent, or how we will serve our clients if we have to go far, but there is hope, and hopefully the new year will shine on us.”

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How to get on the tree

Ever wonder where those donate-a-gift trees get their wishes? There’s no shortage of ways to give to those hit by hard times during the holidays, but if you’re someone on the other end, that help’s not always as easy to receive.

Every year, as many struggling families and individuals accept aid, countless others never step forward for help. While it’s easy to assume that reluctance is due to stigma and pride, sometimes the biggest hurdle is just figuring out where to go.

Jennie Edgecombe, CEO at Victoria’s YMCA-YWCA says that the organization’s yearly Outreach Holiday Tree sees considerable support — but there are few people utilizing it who aren’t already on the Y’s radar.

“They’re mostly families that have used our services in the past,” Edgecombe says, adding that most of those people were involved with Kiwanis House and Pandora Youth Apartments.

Still, Edgecombe stresses that the city’s other organizations can usually provide help more readily. The Salvation Army offers everything from food to housing and, with an online or in-person application, it’s one of the easiest places to reach out to if you’re feeling the strain of the holidays more than usual. Unlike the Y, Victoria’s Young Parents Support Network has seen a jump in the number of families approaching them for the first time over the past month.

“Families in need are in contact already, and get in touch at this time of year,” says Petra Chambers-Sinclair, executive director at YPSN, which has been raising holiday funds for new families with everything from photo-ops with Santa to Santas Anonymous donations. “We’ve been able to connect to people or groups wishing to contribute directly to a family, so they can customize a hamper or give grocery vouchers. We’re always aware of families where there is particular need.”

Kathy Stinson, executive director of the Victoria Cool Aid Society, says their “low barrier” programs are open to anyone, at any time of the year. “People can just walk in through any of our doors,” Stinson says. “They don’t need any outside referrals to use most of our programs.” As for the number of people that use Cool Aid’s services around the holidays, she says that it hasn’t changed — they’re almost always at capacity — but the season does get people donating more non-essential items. “People are more aware, looking to provide stocking stuffers, that kind of stuff,” she says.

If you are one of the many Victorians in need of anything from a holiday meal to a place to sleep, don’t be shy — there are organizations available to help.

Cool Aid Society: 102-749 Pandora Ave. ( Salvation Army: 2695 Quadra St. ( Young Parents Support Network: 2541 Empire St. ( Cridge Centre for the Family: 1307 Hillside Ave. ( Victoria YMCA-YWCA: 851 Broughton St. ( M

– Kate Shepherd