Here are some of the outreach / inreach projects and initiatives at St. Anthony's Church.
Monday Night Kids
One St. Anthony’s Inreach/Outreach project has been our participation in The Rock’s Monday Night Kids dinner program. This is a monthly inner city food program that provides a meal for children and their families. The meals are prepared and served at The Rock, a Lutheran Inner City Society. Located on 110 Avenue and 96 Street, The Rock provides a free breakfast three days a week to those in need in the heart of the city.
The Monday Night Kids program also includes some faith based teaching as well as physical activities and crafts in a safe environment. This is often the only exposure to faith on a regular basis for many of these children. St. Anthony’s has been involved with Monday Night Kids for more than 10 years. It was originally started as a young adult initiative as those in this age group have limited hours to volunteer but found that a few hours a month could be found for service.
Volunteers purchase groceries and prepare a nutritious meal. The first time we served a meal at The Rock, we centered the meal around what else? Pyrohy and kubasa! We paired it with salad, vegetables and of course, treats for dessert. We were unsure what the reaction to our untraditional meal would be – suffice to say we prepared something other than pyrohy once and have never repeated it! UWAC St. Anna’s Branch has graciously donated all the pyrohy and kubasa for these meals and for that we very grateful.
Knowing the situation these children find themselves in, St. Anthony’s also started providing a take-home snack that we have heard is often used as a meal replacement the next day. It emphasized to us that children are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, and they have no control over their living conditions – it is up to us to help them however we can.
Back Pack Give-Away
St. Anthony’s has an Inreach/Outreach program that provides assistance to people within the parish, but also to those in the surrounding neighbourhood and the greater Edmonton area. One initiative of this initiative has been our back-to-school program. We can all recall that feeling of labelling our supplies in eager anticipation of the first day back to school!
St. Anthony’s is a distribution site for hampers through the Edmonton Food Bank. Most parents of these children struggle to provide their children with the basic necessities, let alone all the items required by schools these days. What a better way to let a child know that they are supported to be successful than being ready for that first day just like their classmates.
Knowing the need in our community affects many children attending local schools, the Parish began a school supply campaign. Schools in our community are contacted for their supply lists. A group of volunteers puts together those lists to find the age appropriate supplies needed for the recipients that year. Another group of volunteers contacts our food bank clients to see who would benefit most from assistance with supplies. The client and supply lists are merged and another set of volunteers does the shopping and filling of the back packs.
On the night of our give-away, families we are helping are invited to the Parish for a meal, fellowship and to receive their supplies. Through the generous donations of our Executive Board and Parish members, along with our volunteers, we have run this campaign the past ten years. This year we were able to provide back packs and supplies to 75 students in our community from kindergarten to grade 12.
Van of Hope
With the support of the Parish Board and the generosity of Parish Members, St. Anthony’s embarked on a new outreach initiative over the past three years, the Van of Hope. This was simply our working title for the initiative but it has stuck.
The project started as a way to get water bottles and snacks out to vulnerable community members in the inner city during the hot summer days. As our youth were not in class at the time, the focus was to introduce them to caring for our brothers and sisters in need as we are called to do. In groups of three or four we distributed approximately 800 water bottles and soft granola bars the first summer. We quickly identified that those we encountered, although grateful for our efforts, were in need of much more.
A call for donations of socks, underwear, personal care items and monetary contributions went out in the Parish’s Sunday bulletin. The response was humbling and we were overwhelmed by the response. It is not uncommon for us to find a donation of 10 blankets or a case of toothpaste that has been donated.
After a prayer led by Fr. Patrick Yamniuk, our first coordinated trip saw 12 volunteers venture out on a Saturday morning with 3 vans laden with soup, sandwiches and snacks. Monetary contributions aided with the purchase of the food and additional personal care items beyond those already collected. One family donated hotel shampoos, conditioners and lotions they had collected on their travels! Understanding that colder conditions would be on the way, one senior couple spent their spare time during the summer crocheting toques and scarves to donate!
We try to take the Vans of Hope out every 8 – 10 weeks. Our volunteers have ranged in age from 4 to those in their 60’s. One young girl on her first trip made cookies and notes of encouragement to give to those she met! One of our catechumens has served twice with us! One very chilly Saturday found ourselves adding hot chocolate to our menu as the temperature was -38 C!
Beyond the assistance to the community members we provide, this project has created a way to bring Parish Members together in service and fellowship. Our volunteers have been blessed with smiles and hugs as we strive to do His work and spread His Word. Exchanges of “God bless you” echo throughout the day from volunteers and community members alike.
Since arriving at the Parish, Fr. Timothy Chrapko and his family have also embraced this ministry and we are grateful for their support.
Winter Clothing Give-Away
St. Anthony’s has been a hamper depot for the Edmonton Food Bank (EFB) for more than 20 years. Hampers are delivered by the EFB to our Church every Tuesday afternoon. Volunteers receive the hampers and set them out for pick up. Other volunteers greet our EFB clients in the evening and help them pack up their groceries. On average, 40 families a week pick up hampers from St. Anthony’s. As they can only use the EFB once a month, that means that 160 families from our local community required food assistance every month!
Realizing that there was need in our community, St. Anthony’s looked for more ways to be able to help. The Parish advertised for winter clothing donations and In 2006, we partnered with a neighbourhood school, Centennial Elementary, and added a Winter Clothing Giveaway to our Inreach/Outreach inititiatives.
For the past several years, staff and students from Michael A. Kostek Elementary School have been our partner in this project. Leadership students coordinate a drive of new and gently used winter clothing within the school. They collect the donations and on delivery day, carry bag after bag to the delivery van. It has been overwhelming to see the joy on their faces as they try to cram just one more bag in and still close the doors! The generosity of the staff, students and their families is humbling and year after year the changes the lives of those in our community.
Every year, clients who use our Food Bank are invited to bring their families to the Church for a dinner, fellowship and to select winter clothing that will see them through the cold weather. It is a wonderful experience to see the little ones prance around in their new jackets and boots or a teenager point to a particular hat that has caught their eye. The gratitude expressed by their parents is sincere and heartfelt.