The Blessings in a Backpack campaign donated more than 200 backpacks to the guests of the Upper Room Mission in Vernon on Dec. 23, 2019. (Contributed)

The Blessings in a Backpack campaign donated more than 200 backpacks to the guests of the Upper Room Mission in Vernon on Dec. 23, 2019. (Contributed)

Vernon’s Upper Room Mission ‘a place for everyone’ for 40 years

Data shows elderly, youth and homeless rely on Mission

Sheriff Ron Morgan rented an $800 room above the Simpson Sears building 40 years ago and armed with only a hot plate, a bag of porridge and a mission, one of Vernon’s oldest charities was born.

A lot has changed at the Upper Room Mission (URM) since its been serving Vernon’s most vulnerable populations since 1980, but general manager Naomi Rouck said it’s so much more than a soup kitchen.

“We aim to feed people not only meals but feed them hope,” Rouck said.

Vernonites of all ages and walks of life rely on the URM each day, according to census information collected from 255 surveys conducted during the Blessings in a Backpack campaign Dec. 23, 2019.

The average age of guests, not including children, is 46. The eldest person interviewed was 87 and the youngest was only six-months old.

The data collected showed 56.6 per cent of those surveyed were men compared to 43 per cent women. More than half of the Mission’s guests were homed (56.4 per cent), while 18.4 per cent were sheltered and 25 per cent were living on the street.

Seven children, with an average age of five, were also recorded during the backpack campaign.

“The statistics prove what we have been seeing for some time,” Rouck said. “There are countless seniors and low-income families that access services at the Upper Room Mission.”

“We’ve said it before and the data holds up,” Rouck said. “The Mission truly is a place for everyone.”

The sense of community is central to the beliefs of the Mission, it said in a release, but it’s also what keeps the faith-based charity’s doors open Monday through Friday, 9-5 p.m.

Many volunteers have come and gone in the 40 years of URM’s operations, but the community’s continued support of the URM and its adjacent Boutique Thrift Store are still the backbone of the organization.

“We rely on the support of our community and its generosity to survive,” Rouck said. “Without the community, without you, there is no us.”

“Thank you to everyone who has helped the Mission feed the hungry for the past four decades,” she said.

In celebration of the URM’s 40th anniversary, several events and fundraisers — from a formal gala to a Boutique-run arts project — are in the plans with details to be released as event dates near.

“We can’t wait to tell you what we have in store for 2020,” Rouck said.

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