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After feeding homeless for a year, Bizzzy Bea’s fundraising to keep clients warm this winter

Donate $14, and a warm hat will be given to a person in need
Chantelle Roy’s son shows off the Bizzzy Bea’s hats offered as a fundraiser for the community group. Hats will be distributed to the homeless for the winter.

It began with just one meal. Almost a year later, Bizzzy Bea’s has 40 volunteers feeding the homeless of Sudbury. 

Chantelle Roy, founder of Bizzzy (yes 'Bizzzy' with three Zs) Bea’s, saw a Facebook post offering some food for free. She organized a pick up, and decided to donate the food to local organizations in need. 

But there was an issue. One that Roy understands completely, but still, an issue. There are such specific rules and regulations regarding the donation of food to services that many organizations she offered it to could not take it. But, unwilling to give up on the bounty she had found, she decided to cook it up herself.

Roy knows how to handle food safely. She managed a location of restaurant Tutti Fruitti for a decade, and has food-safety certification. So, she cooked. When she finished, she packaged everything up, she went downtown and just started handing the food out to anyone who was hungry.

Now, with the one-year anniversary of that great meal approaching on December 1, Roy is reflecting on what she has learned, and what she has achieved.  

“I always say, we may hand them a bag full of food, but we also talk to them, ask how they got here, what they need, be their friend, instead of just ‘here’s some food’,” said Roy. “I always try to make sure it goes farther than just the donation, we want them to know that we're their friends as well.” 

That first night, Roy said she spent nearly three hours out in the snow, handing out the food. When she arrived home, her husband, knowing her passion in life, asked her, “so, what’s the plan?” At the time, she said, “Well, if donations keep coming, I'm going to keep doing it.” 

And almost a year later, she kept to her word. 

“We care about them,” said Roy of the clients she serves. “We know their names. We know if they have kids, we know allergies, we know what schools they went to, we know their childhood. We always try to give them more than just a meal.”

She named the organization after her grandmother Beatrice (Bea), who always had room at her table for those who we’re hungry. 

“She always took people in her home, fed them, and made sure they were taken care of,” said Roy. “She had the biggest heart I've ever met. She was truly an incredible woman.” 

The process of feeding so many is far from easy, requiring a great deal of preparation. Roy says the grocery needs list is put up on their Facebook page on Sundays or Mondays and is often built around something that has already been donated. For instance, tilapia. 

“We had a big donation of tilapia, so we decided to make fish tacos,” said Roy. They put the word out that they needed breading for the fish, oil for frying and cabbage for coleslaw. They had the rest of their ingredients within the hour. 

Tuesday is cooking day, with volunteers prepping, cooking and packaging for giveaway. All this is completed at the Bizzzy Bea’s ‘hive’ at 19 Regent Street, in the former Mine Mill/Navy League Hall. Then, they head downtown, stopping first at the YMCA to serve those from the encampment in Memorial Park, then walking the downtown core to find areas they know others often hide. 

Sadly, there are times when there isn’t enough food. “It's very hard when we go out with 150 meals and sometimes you come to 151 people and you don't have that one meal left,” said Roy. 

When asked what she thinks may be causing the rise in people who have no home, she said, in her opinion, it was a combination of COVID-19, but also, the lack of mental health resources, and an understanding of how quickly a slide into poverty can come. 

Even the need to work slightly less, or not at all because of illness, can mean living paycheque to paycheque, or dollar to dollar. 

Even when someone can acknowledge that mental illness, or even addiction, is having negative effects on their life, the resources available often require a long wait. 

“When we have somebody downtown that is ready to get checked into detox right away, or rehab right away. There's phone calls that have to be made, there's wait lists that have to be set up and I think that plays a major role in it as well,” said Roy.  “You can't just go in and walk right in and get that help right away that you're looking for, as far as I know.”

She also worries about the coming winter. Having started her operation at the beginning of winter 2020, she knows how harsh the season can be. It is for this reason Roy decided to fundraise with the new official Bizzzy Bea’s fur-lined hat. Supporters can purchase the hats, full coverage with fur-lining, for those who are homeless or unable to afford warm clothing. Roy is hoping to have Santa Claus volunteer to hand out the hats in Memorial Park as part of their one-year anniversary celebrations. 

Each one is purchased for a person in need, rather than for the customer, and a volunteer, Nicole Dubé, will be adding Bizzzy Bea’s ‘double B’ to the ear flap. The cost is a donation of  $14 and information can be found on their Facebook page or by emailing “Everybody with Bizzzy Bea hat is what we're hoping for at Christmas,” said Roy, “to help them stay warm.” 

Roy also adds that it is not just helping those less fortunate that drives her, but learning from them as well. 

“It really humbles you and it really makes you realize that everybody has a point in life where you need to give back, because you don't know what your path is in the future,” said Roy. “It kind of really makes you realize to be grateful for everything and to be able to give back when you can.” 

Roy said she even thinks of her children and their future, yet unknown. 

“I have two small children, eight and 10, and we don't know what their future is,” said Roy. “It's good to learn and see that these people are somebody's kids, somebody’s parents, someone’s brothers or sisters.”

If you would like to know more about Bizzzy Bea’s you can visit them on their Facebook page by clicking here