The St. Andrews Anglican Parish may seem like a small church situated on Lakeshore Road in the Mission.
The Kelowna church has been around since 1911, with a cemetery behind the church where members of some of the city’s pioneer families are buried.
But though small in numbers at 150 members with more than half over 65, the parish continues to punch above its weight in supporting two significant outreach programs to help local residents change their lives.
“The heart and soul of any church in our community is to be a supportive hub for people,” said St. Andrews Rev. Anne Privett.
“We can’t separate worship from service. They are two sides of the same coin for us.”
One of those outreach programs is called the Welcome Bag Project, as each year the parish assembles about 120 cloth bags filled with basic toiletries and personal items which are distributed to Alexandra Gardner Transitional House, Willowbridge Transitional House and the Penny Lane Facility operated by the Okanagan Boys’ and Girls’ Club.
When extra bags have been available, they are sent to the Inn From The Cold.
The bags contain full size items for people trying to transition in their lives from living in a shelter to their own permanent residence such as shampoo, a toothbrush, notepad with pens, deodorant, socks, playing cards and dental floss.
Christine Ross, the St. Andrews minister of community outreach, says all the items are full size containers, and parish members sew together the cloth bags so they are sturdy enough for other uses, such as packing groceries.
Each item is identified by the social agency recipients as one that is badly needed by their life transitioning clients.
“The point of this program is to give people going into transition housing some of the basic necessities since they often arrive at these facilities with usually little or nothing in the way of personal items,” said Ross.
The other project is Start-Up/Move On kits, six of which are distributed to the same agencies each with $1,000 worth of house start-up items that are either new or in quality working order, including dishes, cutlery, radio alarm clock, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, laundry necessities and a basic tool kit.
Ross says the myriad of items for the kits are collected over a seven-week period, then parish volunteers spend a week sorting donated items, and develop shopping lists of other items needed to fill out list requirements.
“We spend a day packing each kit into two Rubbermaid containers, which are also a gift to the recipients,” explained Ross.
“What does not fit into the containers is packed in separate cardboard boxes, so a full kit is usually seven to eight boxes which are delivered to the agencies.”
Ross says these two projects alone present a huge challenge for the church, driven by a collective desire of parishioners to make a difference by helping be a part of people trying to make a huge transition in their lives, whether it be a mother and her children escaping from a domestic abuse situation or someone above above age 18 who is homeless and beyond the age eligibility to qualify for provincial child social support services.
Ross says the congregation began these two programs back in 2010, soliciting local agencies to attend the church and outline their service needs to the parish.
“One of the aspects of this which is magnificently marvellous is the parish donated the money for these two project in addition to what is given to directly support the parish. It is extra giving on their part.”