Social Service

many ways to make a difference in the world


Introduction

Serving Needs

We care for the needs of women, seniors, refugees, street people, people in poverty, homeless, first nations -- any who are vulnerable, marginalized, disabled in any way. Please select projects from the menu on the right to see more details about each.

Working for Change

We also work for change in areas such as peacemaking, affordable housing, racism, sexual orientation, and the environment.

Partnerships

We also support several social service agencies including the Bissell Centre, Project Ploughshares, McCauley Seniors' Drop-in Centre, the Food Bank, Inner City Pastoral Ministry, Habitat for Humanity. Click for links to partner organizations.

Funding

Robertson-Wesley provides funding to an array of projects and organizations from trust funds and bequests that have been given over the years for outreach purposes. We also contribute to the Mission and Service Fund of the United Church, which includes funding for outreach projects across Canada and around the world.

Community Dinner

Responding to a growing need in our own neighbourhood, R-W started the Community Dinner program about 15 years ago. Once a month, between 100 and 150 people are welcomed to Memorial Hall for a delicious hot dinner, often accompanied by entertainment. With a limited budget, truly committed volunteers buy and source food, plan, prepare and serve these meals, which are free to anyone who needs a good meal. Our neighbouring church, Christ Church Anglican, hosts a similar dinner the following Saturday. The first Saturday in December, we put on a very special Christmas dinner, complete with gifts.


Food Bank

In the '80s, with a sharp downturn in the economy and an influx of first nations people into Edmonton, the need for a Food Bank became apparent. A present member of our committee was a founding member of Canada's first Food Bank here in Edmonton. A few years later, R-W became a distributing food bank depot and been in continuous operation for over 20 years, providing volunteers to handle the morning phone-in service and distribute the food each Wednesday afternoon to those in need in our area. In addition, some R-W members work regularly at the main food Bank to sort and organize distribution.

Housing

Habitat for Humanity has become a focus for a few of our R-W and Outreach Committee members in the past three or four years. We now include a regular "food for the builders" program in our yearly outreach budget to help feed Habitat for Humanity building crews.

Street People

Our Magic Pantry assists transients and homeless people who come to the church office for food. We have had a large increase in demand since September 2007, and hand out between 15 and 26 small meals in a bag every week. The cost of buying the easy-open containers of food and juice for these meals is being assumed by the Community Dinner budget at this point.

Seniors: Operation Friendship

Operation Friendship, which we still support, was founded as a request to R-W from the Sisters of Providence to develop housing for 8 to 10 difficult-to-house inner city seniors. The current Operation Friendship program, and Pioneer Place, where seniors in need are housed and fed hot lunches and provided a space for gathering and conversation (called the McCauley Seniors' Drop-in Centre) resulted in part from the work of R-W members and a still current member of our committee. Today we continue to provide money, food and servers for four hot meals at Operation Friendship in the summer months.

Historical Background

On or before 1970, a group of volunteers from Southminster United Church headed by Marjorie Gibson, began serving soup to lonely seniors in the old Bissell Centre. They were later joined by two Sisters from Sacred Heart Church. This group soon became involved not only with nutrition for the elderly but also housing, recreation and medical care. Operation Friendship, as it was known, became associated with the Society for the Retired and Semi-Retired for financial reasons and for professional guidance. When Marjorie Gibson moved to Calgary, Alice Hanbest was hired as director and her salary was paid by the Alberta Service Corps and Sacred Heart Men's Club. The drop-in moved to the old Bissell Annex and operation Friendship rented an old house across the street for an office.

About 1973, housing for seniors became very scarce as developers moved into the McCauley Area and the Sisters of Providence approached Robertson-Wesley Outreach Committee for help to find an old house that would house about 8 hard-to-house seniors. They knew that Robertson-Wesley was operating the House Next Door. The Outreach Committee appointed Nancy Nix, George Bryand QC, and Janet Hughes to approach the Government and or City for funding and this ad hoc committee discovered that it could not get money for a single house but that it was possible to get funding from a Government Seniors Fund for a Highrise. The City would provide the land.

By 1974 an independent O.F. Board was formed which allowed the Board access to public funding and it was able to get a New Horizons government grant. The Board continued to urge governments to build a senior citizens apartment building and in 1977 Pioneer Place Apartment complex opened. The Boyle-McCauley Health Centre opened in 1980; the McCauley Lodge began operating in 1980 and finally in 1986, the McCauley Senior Centre with forty-two beds for the hard-to-house.

Janet Hughes was on the Board of Operation Friendship for 10 years, treasurer and chairperson for three, and while she was chairperson, Lorna Berlinguette's father, Brian Piercy, was treasurer. It was a wonderful ecumenical experience working with the Sisters of Providence.

Bissell Sandwich Program

The Bissell Sandwich program began at Robertson-Wesley in 2005. An appeal came from the Bissell Centre to help them by making some sandwiches to feed the people of the inner city. A volunteer group got together and decided to do the project. We met in the church kitchen on Tuesday mornings starting in June at 9:00 am, and thought that we would begin with 20 loaves of bread and 10 lbs of Bologna. As it turned out, we made 220 loaves in 13 weeks.

The project is funded by the Community Dinner program which in turn is funded by the compassion and generosity of the Robertson-Wesley congregation. Now we make about 600 loaves of sandwiches in 7 weeks.

We are grateful to the congregation and to the many volunteers (some of whom have been with the project since the beginning) who contriute to this essential program, enabling us to respond to the rising number of homeless and hungry people in our city. God bless you all!


Inner City

Robertson-Wesley has had a long involvement with the Bissell Centre. Many in our congregation have worked there as volunteers in various capacities. Of course, R-W's significant Missionary and Service (M&S) givings contribute to Bissell's annual financial requirements. In 2007, R-W volunteers made nearly 700 loaves of meat sandwiches to help the Bissell Centre meet its growing demand for food. In addition, our members have participated in the Inner-City Pastoral Ministry for some years by providing sandwich lunches and serving at some of these services.

Refugees Sponsorship

In the late 1970s, as a result of the war in Viet Nam, refugees became an issue for R-W outreach. We sponsored the first of our refugee families, so-called 'boat people', and worked hard to raise money and to assist this first family to adapt to Canada and to Edmonton and to rebuild successful lives. In the 28 intervening years, we have been involved with sponsoring or assisting many families and individuals as refugees from countries as diverse as Viet Nam, Kosovo, Eritrea and Somalia.

Though this work has involved many frustrating delays and problems, it continues today. Two members of our committee are currently exploring a new refugee project that we hope to initiate in 2008. This may involve another sponsorship of a family, or some assistance with the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers projects. We feel that our refugee projects have been very successful both in terms of the assistance to the refugees and in the enrichment of the lives of our members that close contact with the refugees has provided.