John Farrow introduced Shawn Seargeant, Director of Operations for Lionhearts, an organization that has been on front lines and front pages for feeding people during COVID-19, including recently established warming hub at Stages, now operating 7 days a week.
Sean began with a thank you. Truly the entire City has made it possible for them to do what they’ve been doing. To keep the ball rolling, Lionhearts has recently received some additional grants. The four Rotary clubs in Kingston stepped up to provide some funding when it was most needed. Sean also offered congratulations on 100 years of Rotary.
Lionhearts is fairly new in Kingston. Seven years ago, a group of friends met concerning food security. They met with various organizations such as St. Vincent de Paul and Martha’s Table who were doing emergency food programs. The problem then: little fresh produce was available to these organizations. It was overwhelming for any one organization to pick up large surplus food donations from places like Costco (who once donated 800 lbs of strawberries). Lionhearts became able to pick up very large donations and distribute it in manageable quantities to various agencies. They picked up $474,000 worth of products picked up in their first year of operations. Last year, the value was $3.2 million of fresh produce, bread, meat, and dairy. Today, three trucks are on the road almost every day, and 32 agencies rely on their deliveries. Lionhearts helps organizations to be bigger, better versions of themselves, just as Rotary does.
Then came March 17th, 2020. Everything was going to have to close. Kingston Street Mission was beside itself. For homeless and transient people, the closure would close off access to restrooms and fresh water. Also, Lionhearts was contacted by many organizations that hadn’t contributed but were suddenly going to have excess food as organizations closed, including lobster and steak from restaurants! There was a big problem: a huge influx of food and a giant need; 32 agencies were reduced to 4. Lionhearts, in consultation with partners, decided to try putting out food at McBurnie Park. Thirty-seven people came the first day, and in a few days, 200 meals were going out every day. Some amazing chefs helped. Will Arnaud, chef from Otter Creek Farms and Catering led the group, donating 40-60 hours a week even while running his food truck. Now there are 236 volunteers on the roster and the organization has a huge responsibility- providing nearly 800 meals everyday.
Sean showed a video made by Marcel Preston of Loan Oak Cinema. He made a documentary last May (2020) of the Lionhearts program, focusing on the volunteer work of Serge Labbe, a retired Brigadier-General: A Day in the Life…. Serge Labbe with Lionhearts Mini Documentary Full Version.
Lionhearts is now serving in four locations daily in Kingston. Sean said amazing things are happening in great neighbourhoods in our city. Lionhearts is finding out where they can get resources to others to do what they need to do, they had to learn how to do that. Neighbours are caring for neighbours, checking on each other; it’s easier for them to pick up packages and deliver to a neighbour than to go and get groceries. They get to know each other through the pandemic. The community as a whole is reaching out. It’s all about partnerships and resourcing—the hallmark of their program. Like Rotary, Lionhearts sees needs and fulfils them, with a network of people who can work together.
Stages was one of the first partners with Lionhearts. Many coats were left there by students, thousands a year coming from several night clubs, a source of beautiful warm winter clothing for people who have none. Now Stages hosts the warming centre, which is now operating 7 days a week.
Lionhearts are also involved in many other programs - the Embassy live music cafe, a program fighting against sex trafficking, and so much more to talk about.
Joyce Yee: I’m concerned with the amount of work you are undertaking. Are you taking care of yourselves?
Sean: A few are going pretty hard, but we have many volunteers.
Joyce: Are there other things we can do?
Sean: There are always many things one can do. We’re looking for volunteers to fill some gaps at the warming centre and serving meals; simple things during the day such as packing bread, packaging useful items; making 1800C food packages potentially good for basic needs for a day.
Robert Reid: Tommy’s patio was half filled with turkeys and half filled with potatoes. Is there a connection with LionHearts?
Sean: They do that every year - a prepared meal (turkey dinner) and grocery hampers for 400-500 families, but alas there is no connection.
Bill Egnatoff: What is the Stages warming centre really like? What response did you get from Rotarians and others? How many are coming?
Sean: Stages is a big space, which is important for COVID-19 requirements. It is important to have a place that is warm, a place for community for people who really don’t have anywhere else to be. Stages has places for up to 46 (at a stretch). Last night there were 13 at any one moment. Sean expects that to expand with cold coming and being open seven days a week. Lionhearts is working closely with Integrated Care Hub managing overflow. Hot coffee, hot chocolate, packaged food, clothing, sleeping bags, hygiene supplies are distributed. The interaction with volunteers, having relationships is the most important part. Making referrals is a big part of the program. Marilyn MacLean is showing other volunteers how to do that.   
Heather Kembel: A lot of us have been involved with Loving Spoonful. How do you coordinate with them?
Sean: We talk almost weekly with their coordinator. We do that well. We deal with large bulk donations. Loving Spoonful concentrates on producers and working with smaller donations. The coordination is really good. There's a vulnerable sector group call weekly, or every two weeks now. Mostly the executive directors, pubic health, and police. This is a great time to work together.
Bill Egnatoff: Would be great to have a video to show how all those agencies work together.
Sean: That's a great idea
John Farrow: It must be a great asset having a  former brigadier general! Sometimes working with volunteers is like herding cats, so he must be a pretty good asset!
Sean: Many people come along and say they are bored stiff at home. This is an example of him wanting to serve in a very humble way. Serge had been working as a volunteer with the YMCA, one of our partners. He started with Lionheats putting cookies in bags and it developed from there! Serge has just been called by Ontario vaccination Chief Rick Hillier and is his chief of staff, so we won't be seeing much of him for a while.
Robert: Are there contingency plan re chefs as restaurants start up again?
Sean: Amazing that LCVI and its culinary program has stepped up to do prep work. Lionhearts delivers food to them and they prepare it for eating. It's neat to see how a few people can coordinate the work of so many kitchens across the city.
Speaker Thanks
Heather Nogrady: It's a pleasure to thank Sean for his enthusiasm. You thanked Rotary, but Rotary really wants to thank you. We’re blown away by what you do. People love doing this work, it's a mark of your success. One of your statements really caught me: “resourcing others to do what they need to do.” I get very emotional about food security. I’ve watched Will on Youtube and can’t say enough about him. Thank you so much. Heather presented Sean with the gift of a virtual loaf of bread.