Building Resilient Community
by Connecting People

A bit about Welcome Inn…

Since 1966, the poverty of loneliness and exclusion has been overcome with friendship and compassion at Welcome Inn Community Centre, where people from all walks of life work together to alleviate poverty in the North End and across Hamilton.  Each person at Welcome Inn is accepted and welcomed as we are.  We respect one another in our diversity and believe we all have something of value to give and to receive. Together, we build healthy and resilient community.  We offer opportunities for spiritual growth with respect for each person’s spiritual journey and different faith traditions.

Welcome Inn Community Centre of Hamilton is a registered charity (107690992 RR 0001), governed by a volunteer Board of Directors.  Audited financial statements and annual reports are available on request.

Board of Directors: Matt Carson, Chair; Tom Geiger, Vice-Chair; David Dutchak, Treasurer; Sarah MacDonald, Secretary; Leah Schwenger, Past Chair; Peggy Savage; Donna Tweedell

Welcome Inn Vision, Mission and Core Values

We envision a Hamilton where people from all walks of life work together to end poverty.

To achieve our vision, we offer programs to children, adults and seniors that support basic needs, enhance potential, and nurture spiritual life. Empower people to develop skills & share their strengths. Together, we build capacity in individuals and resilience in our community.


We commit to working with those who share these values:

We welcome and accept all people as we are.

We are all unique and worthy human beings.  At Welcome Inn, all people are accepted unconditionally and celebrated regardless of religion, ethnicity, colour, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and socioeconomic status.

We practice kindness and respect for everyone.

We recognize that we do not all hold the same values or perspectives. Out of respect for one another we offer service and care to each other without judgement.

We all have something of value to share and receive.

All of our lives, we are all in need and we all have something to give.  We call forth the good in all people and strive to be a place where everyone can give and receive equally.

We are responsible to ourselves and to each other.

As a community, we hold one another accountable for our actions, choices, and responsibilities.

We are all part of building a healthy community.

We value our relationships with one another and strive to connect people and inspire community.  We support one another in times of joy and in times of struggle and challenge.  We strive to reduce barriers between us by reconciling one to another.  We value dealing with conflict in healthy and open ways.  We commit to being a safe, healing, and welcoming place for everyone.

We work together for peace and justice.

We value collaboration and working in partnership together with one another and other organizations, community and faith groups toward a goal of alleviating poverty while remaining true to who we are.  We promote a peaceful, just and fair society for all people.  This includes access to basic needs, freedom from discrimination, a safe and clean environment, and a sustainable livelihood.

History of Welcome Inn Community Centre

1966 – Began as an outreach of Hamilton Mennonite Church providing friendship to people isolated by poverty in Hamilton’s North End. Mennonite Voluntary Service Workers volunteered at least 2 years of time to serve as the staff. Menno and Margarethe Ediger served as ‘house parents’. Programs for children and their mothers were central to Welcome Inn’s ministry.

1971 – Urban renewal forced Welcome Inn to move around the corner and down the street to a large house where voluntary service workers lived on the top floor and programs and services held on the main floors. Community building events such as the horse picnic, family camping, men’s and women’s groups as well as small group Bible studies formed the core of programming. Hugo and Doreen Neufeld began serving as leaders.

1978 – Monthly Sunday evening worship services began due to the desire of an active Bible study group. In 1981, the first Sunday morning worship service and Sunday School began and marked the beginnings of Welcome Inn Church.

1983 – The former Eastwood Baptist Church was purchased at 40 Wood St. E. Voluntary Service workers continued to be an integral part of Welcome Inn while living in community in the neighbourhood. Programs for men, women and children were friendship oriented and focused on giving as well as receiving.

1989 – Harry Nigh assumed leadership as both pastor and director. Extensive renovations over the next 15 years changed the building into what it is today. Voluntary Service workers were an important part of this community until 2003. Welcome Inn began to provide supportive programming for seniors which is still offered to this day. This program provides a meal, program and weekly visits to over 100 seniors.

1991 – An Emergency Food Pantry began providing a 24-hour supply of food to people in need. Today over 8,000 people access this service every year.

1998 – As Welcome Inn grew, the Board of Directors recocgnized a need for more administrative services. Thus, Michael Hannigan became the Executive Director of the Community Centre and Harry Nigh remained pastor of Welcome Inn Church. Woodworking for men, crafts and cooking for women, clubs for kids of all ages, activities for seniors, and worship for anyone continued to fulfill the vision of combating the poverty of loneliness and exclusion.

2000 – Learning and Fun (LAF) After School Program began to provide after-school tutoring to children from Bennetto and St. Lawrence Schools. Over 100 students from McMaster University serve as mentors to the 70 children who participate every week. A partnership with the Hamilton Optimist Club provides healthy snacks.

2003 – Adventures in Art began with the vision of the last voluntary service worker. This club provides the opportunity for pre-teens to develop skills and improve their self-confidence through visual arts.

2004 – Donna Jean Forster assumed leadership as Executive Director and Marvin Friesen became pastor of Welcome Inn Church. Together with the present staff we have carried forth a vision rooted in history to foster community resilience through education and relationship.

2006 – Celebrating 40 years of Welcome Inn’s presence in Hamilton has created an opportunity to look back as well as a great deal of excitement in looking forward to establishing a new program to assist people in using their own and the community’s assets to strengthen their family.

2007 – Made possible by a grant from World Vision of Canada, the PLAN program was launched and family resilience and assets are built through small business training, microloans, and matched savings.

2008 – Welcome Inn took ownership of New Horizons Thrift Store.  The Store had its beginnings at Welcome Inn Community Centre in the late 1970’s and later became its own charity.  The vision of New Horizons is to offer an alternative shopping experience that is accessible, affordable and environmentally responsible, and to be a community place where people of all backgrounds gather to shop, gain work skills, and develop relationships.

2009 – The Welcome Inn Church closed.  Spiritual care and Christian fellowship remained an important value at Welcome Inn.

2011 – Carly Gaylor assumed leadership as Executive Director at Welcome Inn.

2011 – Soul Food Potlucks began on the 3rd Saturday of the month.  Former church members and others gather for Christian fellowship, sharing a meal, music, and prayer.

2012 – Matched savings and financial literacy education were expanded to the kids in the LAF after school program.

2013 – Teen LEAD drop in program begins –  a new youth drop in to promote strong relationships, healthy choices, financial literacy, and leadership among youth in the neighbourhood. 

2013­ – The board affirms the updated mission, vision and values of Welcome Inn Community Centre.

2014 ­ – PLAN program ends

2014 – New Welcome Inn Community Centre logo is designed.

2015 – Jennifer Kellner Benton becomes Executive Director of Welcome Inn Community Centre.

2015  – Kids Financial Literacy Program begins with the Kids Can Spend, Save, Share  project in partnership with World Vision Canada.

2015 – Welcome Inn Community Centre becomes a registered Good Food Organization as part of a movement dedicated to bringing healthy and just food for all.  Transitioning to a ‘Food Access Centre’ model begins.

2015 ­ – 3rd Space Community Resource Centre program opens.  Library, Computer Lab and community groups are open to community members for their use to access supports.

2016 – Food Literacy Project begins as part of the Food Access Program.

2016 – Homecoming event to celebrate 50 years of Welcome Inn’s presence in the North End.