Earlier this year, an ESL class made up of mostly Ukrainian students participated in the weekly Wednesday night community meal hosted by The Salvation Army in Swift Current, Sask.
Longtime Salvation Army volunteer and ESL teacher Candace Fontaine Hornung came up with the idea to get her students to participate in the event after they expressed interest in wanting to help a community that had supported and welcomed them since their arrival to Canada.
“The students are so grateful to the community and looked for ways to say thank you,” Candace says.
From Community to Team
The Swift Current Salvation Army thrift store and food bank, working together with the Southwest Newcomer Welcome Centre, have assisted newcomers from Ukraine with food hampers and vouchers for clothing and household items.
Knowing that the students were coming to volunteer, the Salvation Army staff and meal preparation volunteers set up decorations in the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Students were also given fresh sunflowers as a welcome.
“The students are so grateful to the community and looked for ways to say thank you.” CANDACE FONTAINE HORNUNG
“The community meal members were so welcoming, and the students felt like they were contributing and giving back. It was a great experience for all,” Candace says.
During the meal, the class split up into two groups. Some served the meals, while others helped in the kitchen. As the students served, many of the guests offered prayers for them and thanked them for their service to the community.
“The guests were very humble toward the students. I saw many heartwarming exchanges throughout the evening,” Candace says.
Community meal co-ordinator Arlene McKenzie organizes the event every week. When Candace reached out to her with the idea of involving the students in the meal, Arlene worked to make the experience accessible for the students, who are still in the process of learning English. In the end, it all worked out, and the event was a success.
“Community is the word that best describes the atmosphere at the meal. Our community expanded to welcome a team of volunteers from Ukraine. I love that I get to be a part of seeing and hearing the joy that this weekly outreach provides,” Arlene wrote in a Facebook post thanking volunteers.
The Wednesday night community meals take place weekly at Swift Current’s Salvation Army church. The goal of the event is to provide a hot, homemade meal to their guests, in an atmosphere of love and acceptance. The community meal depends upon dedicated volunteers and meal sponsors to be able to provide this valuable outreach. Anyone who needs a meal is welcome to attend.
With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, the community meal is once again regaining the attention of the Swift Current community. They have been serving between 75 to 85 meals since Christmas, and they plan for that number to increase to 100 later this year.
“We’ve had a lot of interest lately, with some new teams coming on board. I would say we have probably eight active teams of eight volunteers, and that involves at least five churches in the community,” Arlene says.
In the past year, The Salvation Army served 3.7 million meals across Canada through feeding programs and at shelters.