Feature Story Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The Need To Feed
Ruth and Naomi's Mission opens in Chilliwack
Craig Hill/Voice photos
Wayne Massey and Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz cut the ribbon officially opening the new Ruth and Naomi's Mission on Saturday.
uckets of rain didn't stop about 200 people from packing into the newly-built Ruth & Naomi's Mission for a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday.
Chilliwack Mayor Sharon Gaetz and MLA John Les spoke at the event and other familiar faces included city councillors Chuck Stam and Ken Huttema, MP Mark Strahl and byelection Liberal candidate newcomer Laurie Throness.
During the ceremony, Les presented Ruth and Naomi's board chair Wayne Massey with a cheque for $387,000 from the provincial government, but first talked about the struggle to get funding, especially with the budget that was tabled last week.
Luckily there was money available.
"This is a pretty tough time and we brought down a new budget the other day and I think the comments are that it was a very conservative budget," he said.
Les said Massey's funding request was for the Step-Up Program and also to help offset some of the capital costs associated with the project.
For instance, the land where the 8000 sq. ft. building now sits needed hundreds of thousands of dollars of soil remediation and cleanup work before construction on the building could begin.
Chilliwack MLA John Les presents Ruth and Naomi's board chair Wayne Massey with a cheque for $387,00 on behalf of the Government of BC.
Les hinted that Massey can look forward to getting more assistance from the Ministry of Housing saying that he brought Rich Coleman Minister of Housing to the site two months ago.
"He was very impressed with your facility and so we're still working through putting together what should be a workable package to operate the upstairs," said Les.
Once the Mission is fully operational, it will feed around 150 people daily, and have room for 22 men and 6 women in transition.
Gaetz spoke about how excited she and city councillors have been about seeing the Mission come to fruition.
"I was so thrilled because I thought about what it must mean to people who would be outside today in the middle of all the rain, in the cold, trying to keep dry, trying to keep warm, trying to find something in 7-11's dumpster to eat that was dated two weeks ago and this is the place they can come," said Gaetz.
Mayor Sharon Gaetz (R) thanks Ted and Anne Field (L) for helping many people over the years.
"This is the place they can be warm, this is the place they can be fed. This is a place they can find friendship and they could find mentors and people who love them and will care for them. This is a place that is beyond judgmental."
Gaetz added that its embarrassing and not always easy for people to seek help.
"It is an act of humility to be able to come and say 'I need something, help me', thank you for not being too proud to do that."
Wayne Massey, the driving force behind getting the Mission built, took a moment to speak with the Voice on Saturday.
MP Mark Strahl and Liberal Chilliwack byelection Laurie Throness schmoozed.
"Its a day that the community can celebrate all of their time and effort and contributions to help the less fortunate in Chilliwack," said Massey.
He said their two construction managers working on the project knew a lot of people in the industry and were able to garner material, time and labour from generous local business.
"We couldn't have done it without the construction industry in our community."
Ironically, some of those who were employed in BC's once-burgeoning construction industry are lining up to feed their families at the Mission.
The kitchen is located in the lower portion of the building along with a cafeteria-style dining area which will make it easier for staff to prepare and serve the 150 people that come through the doors daily.
"The downstairs is still our street ministry outreach for the marginalized," said Massey. "We do this every day, seven days a week and we have volunteer groups that come in and cook and prepare and serve.
Transients will be able to sleep overnight on mats and clients will be able to shower, do laundry and just decompress from the harsh realities of life on the street.
An upstairs dining room.
Massey says the "Step-Up Housing" located in the upper half of the Mission is what's really going to make a difference in people's lives.
The upstairs facility will be able to house clients in a more permanent living situation where staff will be able to work with them and reintegrate them back into society.
But they need more financial help to furnish the rooms upstairs.
As of Saturday's opening, no room sponsors had yet come forward and Massey was hoping that as people toured the facility they would fill out one of the signs posted on the walls and windows.
"We have the Dogwood Monarch Lions Club who have sponsored $10,000 to pay for the computerized classrooms."
Staff will focus on re-education and basic life skills such as money management, as well as "how to use an alarm clock."
The shelter will also offer an array of diverse courses on things like; agri-management, relationships and anger management and it will integrate with the Health Contact Centre, once that facility is up and running, to get medical care for clients.
A view from one of the warm, dry rooms.
The Mission's mandate is to help homeless people, and others stuck on the fringes by changing their hearts.
Massey says they want to teach them how to love themselves again, but it's not without a certain amount of commitment on behalf of the client.
"When they commit to going upstairs, they sign a contract that says they want to have a new life," said Massey.
"It's a life-changing experience, to change your heart, and that's why our logo has a big heart in it," he says. "We want to change their hearts and refocus, and give them a heart of love again."
See more photos below and listen to the audio of John Les presenting Wayne Massey with the cheque here.
© Copyright (c) 2012 The Valley Voice
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