Everyone in the neighbourhood knows Janice Bellmore. She’s always helping people get to know each other. Her natural friendliness and big smile make her the perfect person to serve juice in the drop-in alongside her good friend Trish, who serves the coffee. Janice first came to All Saints “a long time ago”—25 years or more. She doesn’t like thinking about her first few years in the neighbourhood. She started in All Saints’ peer volunteer program three years ago, helping with cleaning and recycling in the drop-in. She likes seeing people and talking to the staff. “It’s good. I enjoy the people. Just say ‘hi’ and ‘bye.’ We talk and we socialize.”

Janice also enjoys All Saints’ music and art groups, which meet every Tuesday morning. As with volunteering, she likes the people. “They’re good friends, and they make me laugh.” The music group has been meeting to sing every week for fourteen years and is led by long-time volunteer John Deacon. The art group just started last May, and is led by volunteers Hilary Masemann and Jane Halverson. Janice adds, “Jane and Hilary always bring the cookies and lemonade.”

Janice’s gift for connecting with people means she has a lot of friends. Sadly, a great number of her friends have died over the past few years. As a result, Janice has taken on the sacred role of remembering community members who have passed on, and making sure there is a proper memorial service for every one of them. “We remember them as they were.” These recent losses have also inspired Janice to become a writer. On behalf of her many friends who are, in her words, “struggling to find a place to stay,” she wrote an open letter to Toronto’s mayor, John Tory. Her letter appeared in Messages From the Ground Floor, which came out of a writing project at the Regent Park Community Health Centre. Janice writes, “What I want you to know is this: Being homeless is hard… Staying in shelters is hard… I’m very lucky that I have a place to live now, but you need to build more housing.” The book launched last June, and several All Saints friends and staff attended the launch party to celebrate Janice and the other writers. Janice says “I like coming to the church every day and helping everyone. We’re like a family.”