We recently received a request to aid a mature woman who is resuming her life after a lengthy hospitalization. The person has a disability which makes the storage and retrieval of items in her home difficult. Her new home, in a disability unit is without storage which would be accessible for her. We were able to support her by providing funds to purchase moveable metal storage shelving systems on wheels. The storage systems ensure that she has easy access to food and clothing as well as keeping her home in good order.
Sometimes, our outreach blesses us as much as it does those in need. Recently, a young single mom delivered her newborn, but she was prevented from taking the baby from the hospital because she couldn’t afford a car seat for the ride home in a cab. She was referred to us by a local social service agency. We were able to meet the mom and buy her that car seat—one that will serve the child for its first five or six years. So mother and child went home safely, to start their new life together. A blessing for all!
For those living on the streets of our city, a life cannot be rebuilt without a birth certificate. It all starts there. A government-issued ID costs about $50, or $22.50 for a replacement, and without it a person can receive no social assistance, whether for health or housing, and no pension or other benefits. So if someone’s wallet or purse is lost or stolen, the effect on their life is catastrophic. This is one of the things we can do at St. Stephen’s to help someone get their life back. It costs us so little … but gives so much!
Our outreach does not always require us to reach very far. A member of our parish, a senior, lives in affordable housing and cares for her younger grandchild after school each day until the older sibling takes them home by bus. The family, financially challenged, learned that the children, aged 12 and 16, were ineligible for financial assistance at Christmastime because of their ages, and their mother, who suffers with PTSD, was unable to advocate for them. When we learned of this, we were able to offer assistance that will provide a holiday meal and a small gift for each.
Khalil sent the following greeting on Christmas Eve which he requested be sent out “to ALL the group”. The family knows they have been welcomed and supported by a large group of people, and they wanted to express their gratitude in their own words:
“On this holiday, I would like to take the time to let you know that I am truly grateful for everything you have done for me and my family. I wish you a loving and wonderful Christmas. I pray and hope that your new year will be even happier. Merry Christmas! Khalil and Family.”
At this time of year we are approached by social service agencies, and by individuals, asking for assistance over the holidays. Their needs are not great, and their requests are not grandiose. Often, they are seeking help with a special meal, or with the cost of presents for children in their care. An individual might receive from us $100, a household up to $500. These come from the Rector’s Discretionary Fund, which is supported by individual donations from the members of our congregation. It may not change someone’s circumstance, but it does give them a Christmas … and perhaps hope.
Recently a young First Nations man, a client of the Mustard Seed, learned that his mother,living up in Edmonton, was having complications with the surgical implantation of a pace-maker. A mistake was made in her care, and she suffered a stroke,leaving her without her speech. The young man desperately wanted to be at her side but could not afford the bus fare. We were approached by the Mustard Seed on his behalf and were able to meet him and purchase a bus ticket for him on Red Arrow, the company that is replacing Greyhound service in Western Canada.
This year our young people are presenting more than 250 birthday bags to the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank. The Food Bank receives up to 270 requests each month from patrons seeking something a little special for a birthday in the household, but such requests lie outside the Food Bank’s mandate. So, our youth asked for the congregation’s help, received it, and assembled birthday bags containing cake, party hats, balloons, as well as small personal and cosmetic gift items. We are proud to see our young members stepping up to take their place in our midst … and in the world!
Sometimes our outreach takes the form of public fundraisers. These have a threefold purpose: to deepen our bonds with one another; to engage the local community; and to raise funds for important outreach projects. A good example was our recent Midtown Mosaic Art Show, which brought together willing workers from the parish, attracted waves of art buyers, and raised over $10,500 from the silent auction alone! As a result, we are sending $5000 to Kids Cancer Care, $1000 to the Calgary Distress Centre, and the remainder to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund. Talk about worthy work … and for worthy causes!
Sometimes our support for an individual stretches over a long period of time. We first met Carol almost twenty years ago. Her husband was dying, and the family was destitute. We helped in some small way and have continued to do so in the years following his death. The family has been scarred by the many wounds of First Nations’ people—suicide and drug addiction, sexual abuse and poverty—but Carol herself, assisted by support from St. Stephen’s, has pressed on toward a certificate in counselling so she can provide help for her people. We feel proud to know her.
We remember Raymond, a gentle soul, an artist, a middle-aged man with mental health issues that prevented him from working. Supported by social assistance, he lived in a flophouse and visited us from time to time to ask for money for his paints. He would return, sometime later, with a painting he’d done, as a gift. A week or two later, he would return and ask if, perhaps, we might like to make a contribution toward the painting he had given us. In such ways we kept Raymond’s soul alive, until we learned of his death, and mourned his passing.