Plans are quickly taking shape for how things will look at the former Loaves and Fishes, which transferred its assets to the Calgary-based The Mustard Seed this month.
The Loaves and Fishes Benevolent Society closed its doors at the end of June releasing a statement at the time saying the organization had struggled for the past number of years with a lack of financial resources.
Last week, staff from The Mustard Seed held a meeting in Red Deer to gauge what the needs were and get a sense of where to go from here.
Officials have pointed out that The Mustard Seed will be working with Loaves and Fishes to ensure continuity of care for its clients by re-directing them to existing agencies that can provide them with vital programs and services for the time being.
“We’re very busy but very excited,” said Byron Bradley, director of Central Alberta for The Mustard Seed.
As to the recent meeting, Bradley said he and his team felt a warm welcome from the community.
“There were a number of people there from the community including councillors, executive directors from other social service agencies, pastors from churches and local citizens who came up to the mic during our question and answer session and said, ‘Welcome to Red Deer’.
“Another executive director said, ‘I’m so excited to partner with you because of your strong history for caring for our most vulnerable citizens.”
Bradley said the goal these days continues to be meeting people. “We really want for folks to come down.”
Meanwhile, the office (and donation drop-off times) are as follows – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“One of the things we are really trying to up the ante on is in terms of our presence in the community,” he said. That includes having staff spending time outside of the facility literally welcoming folks to the Mustard Seed, and being available to chat about the various ways they will be serving the community.
“We’d love to meet folks, so come down – we’d love to hear from you.” Bradley said another goal is driving those interested in the ministry to the web site, as they will be posting regular updates.
“Pretty soon we will have volunteer opportunities, too. People will be able to register right online, and quite a bit of information will be going on there.”
Bradley said that People’s Place, operated by the Safe Harbour Society and located in the building’s basement, is continuing to look for a new place.
“We’re going to support them. We have met with Kath Hoffman and her staff several times already and made a pretty good connection with them,” he said, adding that the program won’t be turned out in the meantime. “They’re still running their shelter in the evenings in the basement.
“That didn’t stop – not even for a day.”
The Safe Harbour Society had been given notice by the Loaves and Fishes Benevolent Society. According to officials with The Mustard Seem, they needed to do that from a legal point of view as their last day of operation was June 30th.
The Mustard Seed has made a new arrangement with the Safe Harbour Society, whereby they pay rent on a month-to-month basis and continue to operate out of the basement of the building until they can find a suitable, alternative location for the Peoples Place shelter.
Meanwhile, donation drop-offs are encouraged from Monday to Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 6002 – 54th Ave.
There are guest meals available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and the school lunch program will continue for the 2016-17 school year.
“I think we have some schools starting in early August, so that will be kicking off then,” said Bradley.
Ultimately, Bradley said his goal is to understand the needs of the community, as those are different from place to place.
“As we said at the town hall, we aren’t bringing The Mustard Seed Calgary or The Mustard Seed Edmonton to Red Deer. We’re here to learn about the local needs so we can best serve Red Deer,” he said. “We want to take our time and understand those needs the best that we can. The Mustard Seed really specializes in finding gaps in communities.
“I really want to learn, and I also want to build partnerships with the other social service agencies, with the council, with business leaders and with the community at large.”
Check out www.TheSeed.ca/RedDeer for more information, how to donate and for regular updates.
Those interested can also email firstname.lastname@example.org.