SOS Café


For most volunteers at the SOS Café, it’s an affair of the heart.

All net proceeds from the café in the lobby of Penticton Regional Hospital go to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation.

The café opened in September 2010 and Marybeth Zelent (at right in photo with volunteer Rennie Manery) took over as manager three years later, after serving as a volunteer for five months and having previous experience operating her own small coffee shop in Alberta. She now teams together with about 25 volunteers who normally work one four-hour shift each week, contributing a combined total of about 3,000 hours of their time per year.

Zelent said they volunteer for different reasons and have different strengths, but all have a good heart. She pointed to one woman who volunteered at the cafe because her 12-year-old nephew was undergoing cancer treatment at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver.

She wanted to give back on behalf of him, she said. She came in and volunteered here. Then she phoned her nephew. The boy was so pleased. He told his aunt that the staff in the café at Children’s Hospital helped his mother feel less emotionally drained by his battle with cancer. They made his Mom feel like she’s normal. They’re always so friendly and talk to her. Zelent agreed that her volunteers all have similar feelings. Absolutely. We have some people who are unbelievably compassionate, she said. It’s wonderful.

Often they will offer to bring someone’s coffee to a customer while they sit in the lobby. Most of these customers are aware the coffee bar serves as a fundraiser for the Foundation. I let people know all the time, she said. And because my staffers have volunteer written on their apron, people understand.

Zelent admits she found the charity operation a bit of a change from her previous private-sector experience. She pointed to a conversation she had with Walter Despot, chair of the Foundation’s board of directors.

He said to me, Marybeth, it’s not all about numbers. It’s about what you do, she recalled. I knew that, but to hear it from him meant the world to me. It’s not all about numbers, it’s about people and being there for them and the service we provide.

SOS Cafe Hours of Operation:
(Closed on Sundays and statutory holidays)
Monday to Friday: 7 am to 7 pm
Saturdays: 9 am to 4 pm

The SOS Café is owned and operated by the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation. Located in the lobby of Penticton Regional Hospital, we serve specialty coffees, teas, smoothies and juice, along with baked goods and sandwiches. Other than manager Marybeth Zelent, all the staff are volunteers.

Proceeds from the SOS Café go to the purchase of critical care medical equipment at the hospital. If you are interested in volunteering and want more information
call: 250-770-5525