Kitchener-Waterloo Out Of The Cold

Last Update: May 31, 2017


KWOOTC Volunteer:



Welcome to our home

For the volunteers, K-W OOTC is our home. We freely invite any and all guests into this, our home, for a meal with us - without obligation, expectation, or charge, surrounded by the same feeling of community of one’s home.

Of course, it takes volunteers to do this. Lots of volunteers. KWOOTC is entirely volunteer run, there are no paid staff. There is no remuneration, even for the Coordinators for whom it’s been said OOTC is all but a 24x7 job. We believe that at one time KWOOTC involved over 1,500 volunteers, across K-W, Cambridge, and beyond, from all walks of life and all ‘classes’ of society.

We always know your name …

Volunteering at KWOOTC takes no particular or special skill, the things that need doing are no different that the things you would do in having a guest in your own home. Be it setting the table, preparing or serving a meal, cleaning up afterwards, then spending time together in conversation or other activities. And, along the way, enjoying the simple companionship and community of breaking bread together.

Although each [location] is different, running its own program, there are many common elements between them all. See below for what all needs doing, all much the same as in your own home.

* Volunteers wear name tags at OOTC

Comfortable, and comforting …

Volunteering at KWOOTC takes no particular or special skill. If you are uncertain, just ask the volunteer already standing next to you (and so on …).

You will never be asked to do anything you are not comfortable with, there are always very experienced volunteers to hand well able to deal with anything. And, especially, know where things are! You are never alone - “Buddy Up!” is a phrase oft heard. If you would like, escorts to your car or while waiting for your bus are readily available.

Safety matters …

At the same time, being on a larger scale than a typical home, additional concerns are also covered - be it food safety, personal safety, or guests in distress or upset as they try to cope with their trying circumstances.

Food safety is a paramount concern, as all are inspected kitchens and must meet Public Health requirements - not passing would mean the hosting organizations generously donating their facilities would not be permitted to carry out their many non-OOTC activities. Your best defense, frequent hand washing is stressed (gloves have proven to be counter-productive to good safe food handling practices). Hand sanitizers have proven to be a demonstrably poor substitute for hand washing.

Physical safety is also top of mind, be it quickly clearing up winter slush to prevent falls, using tools, wearing gloves (cleaning chemicals), or working with materials (MSDS), or always being aware of your surroundings and in the company of another volunteer. First Aid Kits are always to hand, and often several nearby volunteers are First Aid / CPR certified. Some locations have AEDs. Issues get documented. Emergency plans, such as evacuation procedures in case of fire, are in place. (Did you remember to locate the fire alarms and exits!)


Atypical Tasks

Generally, we have found it matters less to someone what they do to help, than when, or where. With that in mind, consider the general task areas listed below. Find the general type and time that suits your personal schedule, then consult our list of [locations] for a day of the week that works for you.

If you prefer to focus on a task, or like to cook, consider the Desk, Drink Table, or Kitchen. If you prefer the social interaction of meeting new people, consider Hospitality. It takes all kinds of people, at all kinds of times, to execute a night of KWOOTC.

Please bear in mind that some of the most popular areas require the fewest, most experienced, volunteers. Serving, in particular, tends to already be overfilled by current volunteers. We may not be able to accommodate everyone in their preferred areas, and must reserve the right to shift you to a different area, time, or week.

Frequency …

Most volunteers come out every other week. Other volunteers come out but once a month, or not at all - there are many activities outside program hours that need doing. Be it shopping, driving, Christmas or other baking, or other annual activities. Special events can be … special, too. For example Superbowl™ Sunday!

Volunteering every week can prove to be quite draining, particularly for new volunteers, and may be quite discouraged. The KWOOTC season of November through April is quite long - the February blahs have shown themselves to be quite real.

Group activities are welcome as well - some groups provide the entire meal one or more nights a season, such as 5th weeks, giving volunteers a night off. Other groups may do off-site events or drives. (Please contact a Coordinator before carrying out a drive, consult particularly any [wishlist] that location may have - our needs and capacity are particularly limited, being winter, one evening per week, programs. We may have no ability to accept your donation.)

What needs doing, generally …

Each [location] runs its own particular program in its own particular fashion. Times and activities listed are generally common, but may be slightly different at each.

For example, Friday night no longer has distinct Dishwashers, although, of course, dishes still need washing. Instead, currently, that activity is incorporated within each time period.

Setup, 3:30 - 4:30: The first tasks of a night are setting up to welcome our guests.

Door Control, 4:30 - 7:00: The gateway to our program, responsible for meeting and greeting guests as they come in and having them sign in. The door must be manned at all times - remember, the problem most easily dealt with is the one that never enters.

Food Preparation, 4:00 - 6:30: This crew prepares the evening’s meal. Hot entree, salad and dessert. Coffee, tea, and juice are also prepared. Some locations serve the same meal every week, and in the process garnered quite the reputation for their Best Sloppy Joe’s in Town! speciality Sheppard’s Pie! Yum!

Dishwashers and Kitchen Cleanup, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm: General cleanup and dishwasher running during the supper hour.

Servers, 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm: This crew is responsible for serving supper. Guests are often served at their table, for a welcoming atmosphere. They are also responsible for post-meal take down and clean up.

Hospitality, 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm: These volunteers interact with our guests after supper, often sharing a movie, playing cards or other games, or just conversing. Remember we are not here to preach or convert.

Cleanup, 9:00 pm - 10:30 pm: Return the premises as we found them.

All shift times are approximate, see each location for exact details.

Some locations discourage guests from helping. Although the desire to help or give back is understandable, it has often proven to be problematic. Remember - we provide for our guests, but we execute with our fellow volunteers.



As each location is independently run by its own organization on its own premises, each location has its own volunteer intake and orientation processes. Different facilities, different hours, different menus, and so on, make each location unique. Universal, however, is that all locations need and welcome volunteers - please contact your preferred [location]’s Coordinator for how to get started.


For example …

Although each location’s particulars are different, the overall premise and execution of a night at KWOOTC is substantially the same. For an example of the general nature of orientation at an OOTC you may consider Friday night’s Volunteer Handbook, below, or download directly.


(If the box above is blank, please click Friday Volunteer Handbook.)