WINNIPEG, Man. —When the pandemic struck, it hit people who lived near Scott St. Mennonite Brethren Church hard.
One of the big needs the congregation in St. Catharines, Ont. heard about was for food. With help from the MDS Canada Spirit of MDS Fund, its “Lunch from Scott Street” program was able to provide 500 meals for families experiencing food insecurity.
“The MDS Canada grant allowed us to get the program up and running, helping with food purchasing and promotion,” says pastor Rob Patterson.
Along with the food, church members were also able to provide recipients with “a word of hope and encouragement,” he adds.
The Fund was “a great encouragement to our congregation and a catalyst for ministry,” he says.
“It makes us feel that we are part of the larger Mennonite cause, both in St. Catharines and around the world. This kind offer of support from MDS has been a real blessing, and in turn, allowed us to be a blessing to the larger community.”
Scott St. was one of 46 congregations or ministries in Canada that received money from the Fund this summer to respond to pandemic needs in their communities. Ten of those churches were part of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
Another Mennonite Brethren church that received funds was the South Ridge Community Church in Welland, Ont.
Due to the pandemic, it was hard for the church to raise the funds it needed to operate its Collective Kitchen meal program for local families in need of food.
With support from a grant from the Spirit of MDS Fund, the church was able to provide 80 families with weekly meals—over 2,000 meals in total.
“We appreciated the timely support from MDS Canada to help us continue to serve in our community when finances have been tighter for both our recipients and our church community,” says pastor Nathan Dirks.
“The money from MDS Canada greatly contributed to the program, and the recipients greatly appreciated the meals, as most of them are unable to afford both their housing and their food on a monthly basis,” he adds, noting it “enabled us to continue to serve with consistency in our community.”
At the Fort Garry Mennonite Brethren Church in Winnipeg, money from the Fund was also used to provide food for local families.
Working together with the Pioneer Camp Manitoba Community Food Share, a joint program of the church and camp, 100 households were provided with food hampers—the camp provided the staff to make the food and the church provided the space.
“I want to thank MDS Canada for your partnership in the way you came alongside our project as we cared for those in need of food and encouragement,” says Sharon Steward, special projects manager at Pioneer Camp Manitoba and a member of the church.
“We have received a wonderful response from both volunteers doing the deliveries, and from recipients as well,” she says, adding “they told us of the wonderful blessing they felt through the food hampers. It has filled cupboards and refrigerators that had been empty, and they came at just the right time. It has brought joy and encouragement.”
For the congregation, the program was “a call to action to recognize those in need and an encouragement to love our neighbours in tangible ways,” and the money from MDS “allowed more households to receive food hampers than originally was expected.”
At River East Church, also in Winnipeg, the congregation used the Fund to provide groceries for Resource Assistance for Youth (RaY), a local organization that serves vulnerable youth, and support a neighbourhood school breakfast program.
With support from the church, RaY was able to provide food hampers for recipients that contained a healthy balance of perishable and non-perishable items, along with meal ideas.
With schools closed, children who depended on the breakfast program were at risk, says Trish Dyck, chair of River East’s CareLinks program.
“The loss of this program meant the responsibility to feed the children was placed on families who are already stretched and rely on the breakfast program to provide a nutritious start to their children’s day,” she says.
Money from the Fund was used by the breakfast program coordinator to make food hampers for 10 families whose needs were greatest; it was delivered by summer students employed by the church.
“So the Spirit of MDS Fund enabled us to help two agencies, and in a roundabout way to help our two summer students find meaningful ways to serve our church and community this summer,” she says, adding “it also allowed our church family ways to help during the pandemic.”
MDS Canada has issued a second call for applications for support from the Fund. The deadline is Oct. 31. To apply, go to https://mds.mennonite.net/the-