Heather and Margaret share a big smile underneath their masks as super volunteers at the SOS Cafe in Penticton Regional Hospital. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Heather and Margaret share a big smile underneath their masks as super volunteers at the SOS Cafe in Penticton Regional Hospital. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

Penticton hospital cafe serves more than delicious food and drinks

The SOS Cafe is a major fundraiser for the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation

Inside the Penticton Regional Hospital is a special place called the SOS Cafe.

Open and airy and staffed by a cheery group of volunteers, the cafe offers so much more than a place to grab food and drinks for patients, families and health care staff.

The cafe’s revenue goes to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.

“A lot of our customers aren’t aware the SOS Cafe serves as a fundraiser for the medical foundation,” said Marybeth Zelent, manager of the SOS Cafe.

Every muffin, power bowl, panini or specialty latte bought at SOS Cafe sees the funds go directly back into the hospital.

The cafe has generated anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 per year.

The funds go to the greatest need whether that be comfort programs like music or art therapy for cancer patients to medical equipment, according to SOS Medical Foundation CEO Sally Ginter.

The cafe’s heart and soul are its volunteers, who offer their smiles and specialty skills to make and serve the food and drinks at the cafe.

“Our volunteer workforce is critical to the success of the SOS Cafe and we are so grateful,” said Ginter.

“But I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Marybeth’s contributions to making the cafe such a special place,” she added.

“Every volunteer, every customer she interacts with, she offers such a level of caring. She makes a difference in people’s lives and that’s what it’s all about.”

For Zelent, interacting with the volunteers and customers is a joy.

”I like that we can give people a setting that is comforting and a feeling like they aren’t in a hospital, even if it’s just for the time they are here. Customers come in scrubs, patients can come in their PJs, we are happy to have everybody here,” said Zelent.

During warmer weather, families can enjoy the cafe’s outdoor patio.

The granola, muffins, breakfast sandwiches, fruit and veggies cups, paninis and power salad bowls are made in-house by the volunteers who have their Food Safe.

The coffee served is with Lonetree which is roasted in Summerland.

The Bench Market in Penticton has been supplying granola bars and other goodies while Gratify’s vegan treats are now available.

Kindness Initiative was All Heart

From November to January, the SOS Cafe held a kindness project to lift the spirits of health care workers at the hospital.

“Students from KVR Middle School had made these hearts with kind messages and artwork on them. We connected and came up with the kindness initiative,” said Zelent.

The cafe volunteers got to pick a different staff member each day of the initiative and give them a heart, $5 off at the cafe and a coupon for $5 off to share with a colleague, she said.

“It just lifted everybody’s spirit. The kindness just kept going,” said Zelent. Staff put the hearts up around the hospital where they work.

“The staff who got the heart would say things like ‘I really needed this today, thank you.’”

Expanding into Catering

The SOS Cafe is expanding into catering. They can cater outside business lunches and meetings, providing individually wrapped meals or grab and go brown bag lunches.

Volunteers always needed

If you talk to any of the current volunteers, they love their time at the SOS Cafe where it feels more like fun than work, said volunteers Heather and Margaret.

There are 3.5-hour shifts available throughout the week.

The cafe is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information about catering or volunteering call the Foundation at (250) 492-9027 or email Lisa.Barkman@interiorhealth.ca.

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