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Mar30FriEvery Friday night, the Memorial University Salvation Army Student Fellowship serves food to the city's most vulnerable residents March 30, 2012 by Kristin Fryer
It's Friday night in St. John's, N.L. For many people who come to the city's entertainment district, it's a chance to have a night on the town.
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- Territorial News
But for the Memorial University Salvation Army Student Fellowship (SASF), it's an opportunity to share a hot meal and a conversation with the city's most vulnerable residents.
Every Friday from 10:00 pm to 12:30 am, about 8-10 students offer hot meals, drinks and other snacks to homeless people, buskers and street vendors. The ministry is a collaboration with the New Hope Community Centre, which provides the food, and The Salvation Army's Emergency Services, which provides a van. People from the St. John's West Corps also help out.
The ministry plays an important role in St. John's, where poverty is on the rise.
“It's not as visible as it is in bigger cities, but it's becoming more obvious than it was,” says Valerie Barter, Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministries at Memorial University. “As the economy improves, we're seeing a bigger gap between rich and poor and, as a result, we're seeing more homelessness and poverty.”
On a normal Friday, the ministry helps up to 50 people. Some people come directly to the van to get a hot meal, but the SASF also has teams of students who walk around the neighbourhood and look for people who may need help. The students tell the people they meet about The Salvation Army food van, but they also bring hot drinks, granola bars and snacks for those who don't want to leave their spot.
The ongoing nature of the ministry has made it possible for the students to build relationships with the people they serve.
“People expect them now, and the students are having conversations with them,” says Barter.
The SASF has been involved with this ministry since December 2010, when it was led by the St. John's West Corps, but the students took over in summer 2011 when the corps was no longer able to run the ministry.
In addition to helping the poor, the ministry has increased the visibility of The Salvation Army in St. John's.
“In Newfoundland, The Salvation Army is mostly known as a church,” says Barter, “and this shows people that we do social work as well.”
Photo by Brian Carey Photography.