Hope in Action
We have lots of good news to share with you this month! First, we’re pleased to welcome Paul Seney as the new Program Director for the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC). Paul arrived just in time to lead an exciting expansion of our ROHCC services and weekday hours. This means our guests will have a safe, warm place to go on weekdays, three meals a day and additional programming.
Of course, this expansion would not be possible without the support of our faithful volunteers and donors. In this issue, you’ll meet Amy, who rallied her business associates to help feed hungry people this winter. We are blessed to have this support from our community – thank you!
Meet the ROHCC's new Program Director
We are thrilled to welcome Paul Seney, the new Program Director for the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC). Previous to Ray of Hope, Paul worked for Christian Horizons for more than 10 years and has volunteered hundreds of hours at soup kitchens and teen drop-in centres.
We sat down with Paul (virtually!) to chat about what attracted him to Ray of Hope and some exciting new developments starting this November!
Paul, what led you to development work as a way to serve?
I’m a peacemaker and I’ve always had a passion for helping others in times of need. Originally, I hoped to be a police officer but I realized that I wanted to help the people who would be calling the police.
Instead, I got into developmental services. I started to get to know some of the people that I was supporting and found that they were just really genuine. And I felt like everybody should know who these people are.
I continued to volunteer with organizations involved with Restorative Justice. I found that really rewarding. It seemed like a very healthy way for the offender to realize the impact of their crime, and it was a path towards reconciliation.
I’m continuing with my education in Justice and Public Safety, with a focus on social issues like addictions and mental health. I’m currently completing my degree at the University of Guelph -Humber.
I’d been asking God “Is this the direction You want to go in?” and just kind of leaving it up to Him. Then I saw the posting for the Community Centre director position. I didn’t really know much about Ray of Hope so I asked around about the organization.
I had a number of friends who attend a church that provides a meal team monthly here and their eyes would light up when I mentioned Ray of Hope and I thought, “Well, that’s a good thing!”
So, I applied with an open mind and I just gave it to God. I wanted to make sure this was the direction He wanted me to go in and during the process, He made it known in multiple ways that it was. Everything just came together and I’m humbled by the way that it all worked out.
I’m impressed with the management team that I get to work with. They are all very easy-going and open to new ideas. It’s a very collaborative environment and I feel like I’m working with a lot of like-minded people here.
It’s also surprised me that in this time when opinions are increasingly polarized and there’s so much division, to see church groups and community organizations of varying beliefs come together to help people in need. It’s like watching the love of Christ in action. You know God is working in this organization.
Starting in mid-November, we’re going to be opening our doors to offer basic services from 9 am to 5 pm, in addition to our daily dinner service. So, we’re going to be open 12 hours a day. With support from the Region of Waterloo, we’ll also be providing day programs to the homeless population and to other people who are experiencing poverty.
Some of the programs are being developed by our staff and others are through partners like the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre. We have a nurse practitioner coming in who can provide some treatment and renew prescriptions, for example.
We’ll also have programs where guests can complete their high school education, get addictions support, develop life skills and even learn about dog behaviour and obedience.
The new hours and programming is a huge increase from what we’ve been able to do in the past. It will involve hiring more staff and recruiting new volunteers. It’s also going to also rely heavily on continuous donations in the form of food and financial donations. We do have some financial support from the Region, but there’s also the need for the community to continue their generosity.
I think funding will be one of the challenges. But it’s amazing that we have this opportunity to go forward and grow and it’s really neat to see the Region of Waterloo support us in something like this. It’s a very exciting time for Ray of Hope. And I get to come in and see this from the beginning.
As Paul says, expanded programming at the ROHCC means we also need more volunteers. If you feel called to serve, we have lots of opportunities! Please visit our website for more information and the application form.
Huge thanks to Knights of Columbus Council 1504 Kitchener for their donation of $1,000 to support programs that help people struggling with poverty and homelessness.
In the photo, Grand Knight Mike Szabo presents a donation of $1,000 to Chief Executive Officer Tonya Verburg.
The power of connections
It started as a group of business associates who wanted to serve as a Ray of Hope meal team. It grew into a fundraiser that generated donations from neighbours in KW, from across the country and as far away as Dubai. And, because of a corporation’s matching grant program, it resulted in a gift of nearly $3,100 that will help feed hundreds of hungry people this winter.
The story begins with Amy Ballantyne, a Waterloo Holistic Health Coach and mom of three who is also an associate with USANA Health Sciences Inc. The company, which sells health and nutrition products, runs a charitable foundation that works with local and international organizations to provide food-related aid.
Every June, the company encourages its associates to volunteer in their communities during World Service Week. For several years, Amy and her USANA teammates volunteered at the food bank during that week. This year, they hoped to serve at a local soup kitchen. But they weren’t sure how to connect with such an organization – until Amy met someone through a local networking group who just happened to be a Ray of Hope volunteer.
“Until I had had a conversation with Josh, I didn’t even know where to start to look for a place where we could serve. Now, finally, I was sitting across from somebody who could speak to me about it with real authenticity because he had volunteered there for so long. It felt like everything was aligning.”
Then, in March, COVID struck and it looked like the team’s plans to serve were on hold. But not for long.
In April, Amy was approached by the USANA Foundation about helping to launch a new matching grant program for community fundraising projects. For every dollar raised, the foundation would match it, as long as the cause was food-related and no more than 10% of the funds raised would be used for administrative costs.
Amy asked her team-mates if they’d be willing to raise money for Ray of Hope’s meal program. Even though some members live far outside Waterloo Region (some are in Quebec and BC), they agreed.
Led by Amy, the team launched their Make A Difference With A Meal campaign. They created a video and shared it with their friends and business connections. Donations started to roll in from across the country and one of Amy’s contacts sent a donation all the way from Dubai.
Even Amy’s 9-year-old daughter got involved. She and her best friend decided to make and sell bracelets to raise money for the campaign.
“They put them out on a blanket and I posted on our neighbourhood Facebook group. And neighbours and people that we didn’t even know started coming over and buying bracelets and rocks the girls had painted. It was a wonderful response.”
Virtual Pasta Night runs November 9-11
Last month, we shared how our Youth Employment Program continues to help young people find work, even during the pandemic. Now you can support the program while enjoying a delicious meal, sponsored by Heffner Toyota.
Purchase all you need for a pasta dinner (including salad and dessert!). Then follow along online as YE Program Director Sharlene Wallace and a current YE participant show you how to prepare the dish while sharing information about the program and its impact.
Here’s how it works:
1) Choose your DATE for order pick up (all orders must be received by November 6)
2) Choose your MEAL option (chicken and bacon carbonara, beef and pork ragu or spinach and ricotta shells) with your choice of salad and mini-cheesecake bites for dessert.
3) CHECK OUT using the various payment options
4) PICK-UP your order on your chosen day (November 9-11)
5) PREPARE your delicious pasta meal in the comfort and safety of your home
Please visit the Pasta Night event page for more information. Bon appetit!