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Nov23WedA revamped lunch program is creating respect for all at Regina's Haven of Hope Ministries November 23, 2011 by Julia Hosking
It is five minutes to 11 a.m. on Thursday at The Salvation Army's Regina Haven of Hope Ministries. The sound of chatter from 60 voices fills the waiting area of the Ministry Centre. As the clock strikes 11, clients take their seats and pick up their mug of coffee, poured from the carafes already on their table, and turn their attention toward the front of the room to hear the week's devotional message.
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- Territorial News
“They hold onto their coffee cup as though it is the most precious thing,” observes Val Wiks, community ministries co-ordinator. “They have their hands wrapped around the mug, because everywhere else they go to get coffee, it is given to them in Styrofoam.”
Giving clients a ceramic mug for their coffee is only part of the revamped Thursday feeding program—now known as Lunch with Sally—that came out of a move back into a newly-renovated building in September.
“When we moved into the new building, we talked about how we could improve our current programs and we tied that conversation to the territory's Dignity Project, asking ourselves how we can offer more dignity to our clients,” says Major Doug Binner, corps officer and community ministries officer.
Prior to the move, Haven of Hope hosted “coffee time” at 10 a.m. on Thursdays, serving clients sandwiches, soup and dessert in Styrofoam and plastic.
“It was a 'soup line concept,' ” Major Binner continues. “It met a need, people appreciated it and it was well attended by 25 to 35 clients, but we believed we could do better.”
Now that Haven of Hope has a larger seating area and a semi-commercial kitchen, the program is more of a lunch meal and clients are seated at tables, with real dishes, and served by hosts. Attendance has also significantly increased to between 50 and 60 people each week.
“The host is assigned to a certain table and not only serves the meal, but develops relationships with the clients and helps them feel welcome in our home as we share a meal with them,” says Major Binner. “On the first Thursday we did that, one man said, 'I can't remember the last time I had a meal off a real plate.'
“Some of the folks that come are in need financially, but there is also one woman who is 87 and lives down the street all by herself who comes not so much because she needs the free meal, but because she needs the fellowship. We are meeting a variety of needs in our neighbourhood.”
Give and Get Dignity and Respect
Major Binner and Wiks have both observed in the past few months that the more they treat their clients with dignity and respect, the more they and other staff receive in return.
“Because we were going to be serving so many people, I was expecting breakage of dishes and cups, but we've had nothing break. The clients are very respectful and careful of the dishes,” says Wiks. “They have embraced the change and they're even bringing friends.”
“We do a food giveaway on Tuesdays and people line up waiting for our doors to open,” adds Major Binner. “A couple of weeks ago, there was a kafuffle in the line up and the clients policed themselves. We think that is part of the dignity and respect we're trying to build into our whole ministry.”
The success of Lunch with Sally is in part thanks to the food donations from community businesses and individuals. In particular, a local shop, Biscuits and Broths Café, donates plenty of soup to Haven of Hope each week.
“We also have some very faithful and dedicated volunteers who make this program run,” says Major Binner.
“And there is a lot more interaction between our volunteers and clients than there was before,” adds Wiks.
Because Haven of Hope now has access to a full kitchen, the centre has recently started hosting special occasion meals. The first was a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving and more than 100 clients were served. Most recently, the centre served a meal for Remembrance Day, with the next one scheduled soon after Christmas.
“I think the hot coffee and soup will become even more popular as the weather gets colder,” says Major Binner. “When we see the clients nursing their mug, it is a continual sign to us that this program means a lot to them. They can come, sit, eat a meal and be treated with respect and dignity in a safe and wholesome atmosphere.”
Photos: Chad Jeremy