Every year at this time, for almost twenty years, dozens of St. Stephen’s members have skipped church to chop onions, plate salads, ladle soups and feed over 500 people a hot meal across town at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cathedral.
For us it’s an annual service project but, in fact, the “Feed the Hungry” program happens every Sunday year-round, engaging thousands of volunteers, some from churches and some from businesses and community service organizations throughout the city.
Not only do we provide a small multi-generational army of enthusiastic chefs and servers, we also raise the funds to pay for the meal. So two of our monthly Special Outreach Envelopes (formerly known as “Pink Envelopes”) are designated for this work, raising over $2000 a year.
The need is obvious among our city’s most impoverished people—those without homes, without jobs, and without a place to belong. But the effects of the weekly meal go beyond a hot Sunday meal: those thousands of volunteers are meeting poverty face to face, hearing the stories, breaking down the walls of “us and them”, and creating the desire to end urban poverty and homelessness. Especially for children
and young people, the program provides a safe “exposure tour” of the social needs of a big city, and a practical, compassionate, Christian response.
To learn more, go to www.feedthehungrycalgary.ca. Or speak with Blake Kanewischer, St. Stephen’s’ “Feed the Hungry” coordinator. Or, better still, sign up for next year’s dinner. It’s a life-changer … for all of us.
Last weekend St. Stephen’s was a lively place. But it wasn’t the events themselves that had us spinning; it was the speed with which the news of those events got out, and the number of people who knew about them almost instantaneously.
On Saturday afternoon we learned that Mayor Naheed Nenshi might drop by for a “Meet and Greet” prior to the Sunday service. We posted the news on FaceBook on Saturday evening and by the next day almost 500 people had seen it.
Louise Gallagher spoke to us at the Sunday service about Inn From the Cold, suggesting ways St. Stephen’s and other churches might remain involved in tending to homeless families. A video touching on her visit was posted on FaceBook on Monday, where it reached over 600 people.
But the biggest news—Saturday’s vote by Synod to ask the bishop to permit same-sex blessings in this diocese—caught fire in a FaceBook post on Saturday night and to date has reached an audience of over 4600!
Sometimes the news isn’t the message but, as Marshall McLuhan told us, the medium is. Increasingly people are keeping up to date with St. Stephen’s not by the website, not by email, not even by being here … but by following us on FaceBook, where the news is delivered weekly, and whenever else it breaks. Maybe you should join us there. Our FaceBook page is “St. Stephen’s Anglican Church Calgary”. “Like” us, and you’re in.
For over twenty years, through Inn From the Cold, robust teams of volunteers in churches, synagogues and mosques all across the city provided hospitality and safety to families who otherwise would have been on the street. Here at St. Stephen’s, those teams—the set-up crew, the supper servers and evening crew, the overnight coordinators, the breakfast and strike crews—comprised almost a hundred workers.
For many of those volunteers, the Inn was their only connection with St. Stephen’s, and they were grateful for the opportunity we gave them to serve. We were proud of our work with the Inn and even more proud that it was born right here in our own church hall.
A year and a half ago, when the Inn From the Cold Society put an end to its “satellite inns”, like ours at St. Stephen’s, many volunteers felt abandoned, and not a few felt angry. But the Inn had outgrown its humble beginnings and was able to consolidate its support for homeless families by centralizing their housing in a downtown location, close to social services the families needed, and providing day-to-day stability for families in transition.
The Society has continued to expand its services to homeless families, including several multi-family dwellings capable of housing larger families. But they have not forgotten their roots and now are reaching out to those many volunteers who created the “inns” that gave the Society its name, and its start. We appreciate those efforts and receive them with gratitude: Welcome home!
Life continues to be busy for this newcomer family on many fronts, especially now that everyone has started school full time. Managing four kids in four different schools in addition to the parents’ own full time ELL education has been a challenge but one they have risen to with their usual determined good spirits. In-home ELL support continues twice a week with NeST volunteers, and volunteers continue to support with health and dental appointments, financial mentoring, transportation, and assorted ongoing resettlement tasks.
The family has been working hard on their language studies, but taking time for fun too. Teenager Ayman celebrated his first Canadian birthday in September with a high-energy afternoon at a trampoline park, along with his family and friends from his neighbourhood and NeST. Ayman also, by the way, successfully harvested a small tomato crop before the frost, from plants he tended all summer. NeST volunteers, please stay tuned to Lotsa Helping Hands for upcoming NeST-sponsored social events, or contact Social Team Lead Sarah (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you would like to arrange something or join the team.
And finally, the family has requested additional seating for their living room, correctly noting that once the six of them sit on their current couch and loveseat there isn’t much room left for guests! If you have or know of a sofa or loveseat in very good shape to donate please contact the Household Goods Team (John at email@example.com or Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org) to see if it will be suitable for their space. On behalf of Al Jbawis, thank you for your ongoing support!