by Janet Southcott firstname.lastname@example.org A tapestry of giving is woven into the fabric of Powell River. Many people give their friends and neighbours, sometimes strangers, a helping hand, acts of kindness that often go unnoticed.
Christmastime is known for giving, but this tapestry is woven year round. It is often faith-based, emanating from many churches and homes in the community.
Common to each Christian-based church that contributes to these generous acts is the belief that in giving, parishion-ers are being the hands of God, expecting nothing in return yet benefiting from the knowledge of spreading the love of their faith.
“God is a giving, loving God and therefore we should be giving, loving people,” said Lead Pastor Oskar Arajs from Westview Baptist Church. “It goes much deeper, of course. One of the most profound things Jesus said is ‘it is more blessed to give than receive.’”
Phyllis Brown, secretary at Powell River United Church noted, “There are a lot of needy people in Powell River and so we want to be able to take care of them. And a lot of us have a lot to give. That is what the church is. It is a giving, loving place to think of people.”
Giving spans all age groups and includes providing food and clothing, renovating living spaces, to working with a person’s core fundamental spiritual well-being.
The Anglican Church of St. David and St. Paul in Townsite creates baskets of food and items for six agencies, collects and donates food to both the Salvation Army food bank and Powell River Action Centre Food Bank, as well as the Lutheran Church’s food cupboard. And once a month a group of women knit and crochet shawls for people going through a bad time. These shawls are of many different colours and each is blessed in a church service before being given to somebody in need. “The Prayer Shawl Ministry combines love for God and service to others in a tangible way,” said Ingrid Wood of the Anglican Church. “The ministry’s purpose is to give away shawls that will literally wrap recipients in prayer. Knitting a prayer shawl helps and comforts not only the recipient but the knitter as well. God makes the difference, we just knit.”
Food is essential to health and throughout Powell River a person can receive food five days a week if they know where to go. The Lutheran Church has been in Powell River for 40 years. It receives donations of food from one of the grocery stores, the Anglican Church and from individual parishioners. Every two weeks the church’s food cupboard is open for people to receive dairy products, vegetables and non-perishable food. It began on a small scale. “When Pastor Carol [Dennison] came she expanded it and we got a whole committee together,” said Bonnie Krakalovich. At first there was somebody on call every day, but that became unmanageable. The committee then tried once a week but couldn’t keep up with the demand for food. Every two weeks seems to work well. In November, 42 families were provided with food and over the year there will have been more than 900 visits to the food cupboard.
Seventh Day Adventist Church is well known for its soup kitchen. When Donna and Ernest Dunning arrived in Powell River 19 years ago, Donna decided to start serving soup. She purchased a crock-pot and put out a sign offering free soup “all welcome.”
“The first time nobody came,” recalled Donna. “The second time three ladies came. They ended up being my first volunteers.” From there the soup kitchen grew, literally. Ernest built an extension so now the kitchen seats up to 54 people. Food is provided twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday.
A number of churches tried running a soup kitchen but decided instead to provide supplies to Salvation Army. “We have found it difficult in the past to determine who needs the food,” said Katie Alescio who, together with husband Sam, are pastors of Northgate Foursquare Church, Powell River Campus, a church that has been in the community for about 75 years. “We don’t know if we are doubling up on people.” And so Foursquare church supports the work of Salvation Army church, which is able to distribute food effectively.
United Church provides a pasta night every Monday from October through to May, which is very popular. The church also holds a reverse offering. “On the first Sunday of every month you pick a piece of paper out of the basket and it will say peanut butter or tomato soup, or something else, and whatever it is you buy it,” said Brown. “We have somebody who takes it to the food bank at the end of the month. For November we had 201 items.”
Evangel Pentecostal Church’s FAN Powell River program reaches community members requiring assistance. “It stands for friends and neighbours serving friends and neighbours,” said Senior Pastor Ken Lamden. “We have different needs we know about or are referred to us and teams of people who will meet those needs.” For example a team may work in a person’s house or garden. In this way, parishioners are “sharing Jesus’ love by our actions and generosity.”
Revamp is a program through Seventh Day Adventist where funds are put toward renovations, roofs, ramps or verandas. All work stays within the community.
Some giving is not tangible. For both Baptist and Evangel churches, giving begins with helping people build a strong core of understanding. For Evangel, part of its focus is on youth. “We have a strong youth group and a full-time youth pastor,” said Lamden. “Mark’s focus is young adults and we are giving to the community...a full-time guy that we are investing into the youth of our community in different ways.” Common Grounds is something spearheaded by youth pastors across Powell River to develop a Christian community and try to show youth “an alternative life.”
Arajs describes the Baptist church’s giving to people “by getting to what we believe is the root issue, root problem...We believe at the core of us there are spiritual issues so we really believe getting to the core of those will transform a person’s life.”
Threads of giving extend right across the community, from non-profit organizations to school programs, to cultural and experiential groups. Woven into all is a volunteer spirit. Everyone, no matter what their involvement, serves to make life just a little bit easier for others. That, after all, is the tapestry that holds Powell River together.