West End Bakery: Saying Farewell to a Cherished Community Partner
West End Bakery has been in existence in downtown Guelph for a really long time – over 50 years – and it has a rich history. What many people may not know about the bakery, though, is their fairly long standing commitment to HOPE House as a gift in kind donor.
On a beautiful sunny day I meet with Manager, Liz, and Assistant Manager, Amanda, to chat with them about our partnership. They offer me a coffee, ask if I’d like a treat, and I gratefully accept a sweet empire cookie, one of my all time favourites and a goody I’ll miss greatly as they prepare to close their doors.
Liz has been with West End Bakery for over twelve years, Amanda seven. Both long term employees, they attest that their dedication to working there for so long is due to it being a wonderful place to work, with great owners and co-workers. Amanda says she enjoys getting to know the customers. A quintessential aspect of the West End Bakery is that customers of all sorts access their bakery. Located between HOPE House and the Community Health Centre means that their clientele is varied across socioeconomic status, age, race and health. This is not a location that discriminates. Everyone enjoys a cookie, a hot bowl of soup, or cheese bread and the staff welcome everyone.
“Because we’re between the Community Health Centre and HOPE House,” Amanda explains, “sometimes we get people from both of those service areas which is kind of cool because then we can tell people about both of these resources…those who know the health centre we can tell about HOPE House and those who know HOPE House we can connect with the health centre.”
“Amanda mediates a lot of people” Liz shares, “she’s safe and approachable to people. They just gravitate towards her”.
The relationship between West End Bakery and HOPE House has been ongoing over the years, but really solidified during the past three years (at least), as the bakery has consistently donated fresh baked bread to toast for Wednesday’s Community Breakfasts, attended by an average of 100 people every single week. They also conduct Christmas drives for HOPE House and give in other ways when they can.
Amanda and Liz share that this ongoing commitment to HOPE House has helped them better understand the need in the community and the services offered at HOPE House. Amanda shares,
“We’ve been able to help customers who come in who say they’re struggling and tell us their stories. Or those who come in then say, you know, that they’re hungry but all they can afford is a coffee. We always have samples and of course they can take a couple, but I’ve been able to say, hey you know HOPE House has a breakfast every Wednesday and if you go over there they always have coffee and snacks available. So, we’ve definitely been able to help our clientele”.
That people can feel safe to go to West End Bakery and say they’re hungry or ask for help says a lot about this downtown staple. There are a lot of higher end stores in the downtown sector who wouldn’t likely be approached by hungry and hurting individuals, but the staff at the bakery really feel connected to something more as part of the downtown core, where many people experiencing poverty and homelessness tend to hang out.
“As a downtown community, we want to send people there” says Liz.
We want to take this opportunity to thank the staff at West End Bakery for their commitment to helping Guelph’s most vulnerable. We will miss them as a cherished community partner and donor. Even more we will miss their acceptance and compassion for those who sometimes just need to know someone cares enough to point them in a good direction.