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This Windsor, Ont., restaurant serves people who can't afford to pay

Steven Cromie, the peer leader at Ten Friends Diner, says staff members collect donations in a jar to pay for meals for people who can't afford them.  (Amy Dodge/CBC - image credit)
Steven Cromie, the peer leader at Ten Friends Diner, says staff members collect donations in a jar to pay for meals for people who can't afford them. (Amy Dodge/CBC - image credit)

A restaurant in Windsor, Ont., is cooking up extra food for people who cannot afford a meal — and dishing it out for free.

But the staff say they're the ones getting the benefits.

Ten Friends Diner, at the corner of Wyandotte Street and Moy Avenue, is a non-profit establishment that provides support and employment training for people with mental illness.

The staff collect donations in a jar to pay for meals for anyone who can't afford them, said Steven Cromie, the restaurant's peer leader.

"It's just to help them out.

"You don't really want to see them walking around not eating."

'I haven't called in sick in forever'

Cromie lives with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and depression, and was recruited to Ten Friends by his girlfriend's mother, who was serving on the board, he said.

"I had a big deal with trying to get up and getting over my depression and stuff," he said.

"It's helped me come in. I haven't called in sick in forever."

Prior to that, he said, he had been very isolated.

 Brandon Poore, left, and Joshua Warner work at Ten Friends Diner. Both say they've seen improvements in their mental health since joining the staff.
Brandon Poore, left, and Joshua Warner work at Ten Friends Diner. Both say they've seen improvements in their mental health since joining the staff.

Ten Friends Diner workers Brandon Poore and Joshua Warner, left to right, say they've seen improvements in their mental health since joining the staff. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

Brandon Poore said working at the restaurant has helped him gain control over his anxiety.

"That's really big," he said.

"It's been a great experience learning to do dishes properly. I'm starting to train to serve."

Joshua Warner, who has worked at the restaurant for nearly a year, has been trying to work out how to manage his mania, which has previously landed him in hospital, he said.

He hasn't had an episode since starting at Ten Friends.

"I would also have winter blues. That's another symptom for me," he said.

"But since I'm involved here, that hasn't happened either."

Warner said customers can donate money to the "homeless fund" to help feed people in need, but staff members also hold fundraisers.

"We also do charity events like bingos, to put money back in the homeless fund and many other aspects of the program."

The group entered the Canada Day parade last year and served cotton candy at the side of the road, he said, and a couple of local businesses share portions of their proceeds with the restaurant.