By Heather Macdonald
[Catholic Saskatoon News] – Looking back on its 50-year history, the Saskatoon Friendship Inn’s name says it all.
In addition to extending a non-judgmental welcome to each person who walks through the door, the inn has evolved thanks to numerous nurturing relationships.
“With generous community support, the Friendship Inn was born and continues to provide essential meals, friendship, counselling and care in the heart of our busy city,” says former Board Chair Carson Heagy.
Want to celebrate the Inn’s 50th? How about joining with family, friends or co-workers to donate 50 unopened food items to stock the pantry shelves! Guests of all ages especially need dry cereal, fresh fruit, canned goods, pasta, peanut butter, jam and coffee. Donations may be dropped off at 619-20th Street West in Saskatoon, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. seven days a week.
Concern, especially within the Christian community, led a group of local residents to open the Inn in March 1969 to serve unemployed transient persons and older men without families.
These early efforts involved eager volunteers, the Inner City Church Council, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and the Our Lady of the Prairies Foundation, founded by Jack Leier.
The diocese of Saskatoon’s initial support included renting the Inn its 20th Street location for $1 a year and other financial contributions. In 2010, when growing demand for the Inn’s services led to plans to renovate and expand its facility, the Roman Catholic diocese donated the building outright.
Another long-time relationship developed with the CWL Clothing Depot, located in the lower level of the building, a project of the Catholic Women’s League.
The Friendship Inn is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., every day of the year. Breakfast is served at 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and lunch is served from 11:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. All meals are offered free of charge, with no questions asked. See the website: friendshipinn.ca or call (306) 242-5122 for more information.
Along with servings of soup and coffee on cold winter mornings, the Inn’s services has grown over the years, with the addition of legal, dental and medical clinics.
Vulnerable children, youth, adults and seniors came to know the Friendship Inn as a place to obtain warm food served with a healthy portion of kindness and understanding.
After noting the varied benefits generated by the Friendship Inn, United Community Funds of Saskatoon and later the United Way offered support.
Support grew, with members of parishes and congregations reaching into their wallets to help. Contributions included Merlin Motors providing a van to pick up donated food; the Army and Navy Store giving 300 pairs of socks; and internationally-recognized Cree artist Allen Sapp donating a painting.
Over time many volunteers of all ages gave their time individually and in groups to enhance the lives of the children, youth, adults and senior citizens visiting the Friendship Inn.
The Inn’s impact spread, as it was instrumental in the establishment of the Saskatoon Legal Assistance Clinic and involved in early discussions related to the opening of the Saskatoon Food Bank.
Today, compassionate and respectful relationships remain central as people come to the Inn seeking food and friendship, counselling and such supports as guidance with their job search or parenting role.