Time to celebrate

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Upper Room Mission celebrates community efforts to renovate kitchen

Lisa Froom was in the middle of raising $165,000  for a new kitchen at the Upper Room Mission when an elderly woman approached her.

The woman, who has used the agency’s services, tucked a small, brown envelope into Froom’s hand and expressed embarrassment over the contents. Froom, as general manager, extended thanks and immediately went upstairs to her office and opened the envelope.

“It was 39 cents inside and that almost brought me to tears,” said Froom.

“It was everything she could spare.”

This wasn’t the first time emotions had overwhelmed Froom.

Tears streamed down her face as a couple dropped off an $80,000 cheque, bringing the  fundraiser to a successful conclusion.

In a society fixated on money, it would be easy to place more importance on the much heftier contribution. But the couple with the $80,000 and the woman with her 39 cents shared a bond — they gave what they could afford and they deemed the mission worthy of support.

“Everyone’s donations helped with the kitchen,” said Froom.

Humbled by the experience, Froom, URM’s board, staff and volunteers are wanting to say thank you to the community.

Public tours will be held at the mission (3403 27th Ave.) Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m., with a ceremony and cake cutting at 2:30 p.m.

“It’s a way of showing them what we are doing because we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for their support,” said Froom.

Simply considered a soup kitchen by some, so much more goes on inside.

All registered clients can participate in Fresh Start, which focuses on health, finances, relationships, self-esteem and life goals. They are also encouraged to develop skills that will eventually move them towards education or employment.

“People have a small picture of what goes on here and when they go on a tour, they are blown away,” said Froom.

It’s also hoped Saturday’s open house will break down stereotypes, and particularly the misconception that URM is a hangout for druggies.

“Part of that is true but as you get to know people and hear their stories, you realize that it’s regular people that struggle with addictions,” said Froom.

For most of us, we don’t have to go very far to find someone we know — perhaps a parent, child, neighbour or friend — who has waged a battle with alcohol or drugs.

There are clients with jobs but low wages force them to decide between rent and  food. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or supper, you will find seniors or the disabled sitting down to a meal. Teens and children walk through the door.

Mental health is a partner for many of the clients.

And like the similarities between the couple and the woman who donated, Froom insists her clients and those in the broader community share a common link — the uncertainty of what life will bring.

“A lot of us are in denial,” she said of the possible impact from poor health, a marital breakup or financial collapse.

“What if you lose your job? What would you do?”

But while Froom wants residents to challenge their perceptions of life and their role in the community, Saturday’s open house is not about preaching or pointing the finger. It’s a party.

“We want to celebrate what we have done together as a community. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the public,” she said.

– richard@vernonmorningstar.com