Message from the Board Chair
It has been a great honour to have served on the Board of Mission Services for almost ten years, a decade full of achievement, change, growth and many, many blessings. It has also been a privilege, and a gift, for me to have worked with so many fine men and women who, as staff members, fellow volunteers, and contributors, have enabled the Mission to fulfill its purpose—to seek Justice, show Mercy, and offer Hope.
For six decades, Mission Services has been reaching out to help people in need, consistently and with great compassion. We began when one man responded in faith to God's call to make a difference in the lives of marginalized men in downtown Hamilton. His daughter shares some of his story in this report. Today, Mission Services has over one hundred employees, and twelve hundred volunteers, providing care and services out of four buildings to over two thousand people very year.
Through all that time, it has been the support of generous donors and selfless volunteers that has enabled Mission Services to thrive. From the many people who have provided financial support to our work for decades, to the young girl who sent in her birthday money to the Mission just last month—Mission Services is here because the people of Hamilton, people just like you, care for their neighbours.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. The pictures throughout this annual report tell quite a story: a story of 60 years of feeding people, their bodies and their souls. may God continue to bless each of us.
Happy Birthday, Mission Services!
Ruth’s father, Enos Bearinger, started Mission Services of Hamilton 60 years ago. Ruth’s stories about our early days, passed on to her from her parents, bring our roots to life. Little did we know how much courage and faith Enos needed to get our feet off the ground and open the doors of our first shelter! Ruth sums it up perfectly: “In those days, it was messy and organic and absolutely beautiful.”
“My favourite memory is working with the children. They inspired me and taught me so much. Their resilience was incredible. One time, I had to find a foster home for a group of kids on short notice. They were nervous to stay with their new family the first night, so I slept on the floor and held the girl’s hand until she went to sleep. Two years ago, that same girl walked into the thrift store where I work and said, “I just wanted to say thank you. That meant a lot.”
IN HER WORDS
“My father definitely felt called to start the Mission. He came from traditional Mennonite stock but was also a bit of a renegade. He left his Mennonite community to join an Evangelical church, and when he started the Mission he didn’t have a clue what he was getting himself into. But he was humble and never wanted any personal credit. After inviting a homeless man to stay in his house for several months, Enos sold his farm to open a shelter for men on James Street North. Those early days are filled with stories of churches and people coming together to give whatever they had. One time, they needed quite a bit of money for the building, so a group of people went into a prayer room and said they wouldn’t stop praying untiL the money came in. It soon did.
I actually came to the Mission all on my own. I went on a vacation to Boston with my girlfriends and walked by some people who were homeless, and I just got slammed. I remember thinking, how can I walk by people in this situation and not want to help? My girlfriends went on a tour the next day while I bought muffins and gave them out to homeless people and spent most of the day talking with them. I knew right away that this was where I needed to be. Not long after, I saw a job posting for what was then called Help Services and applied. I got the job and went on to spend several years developing and running afterschool programming for children. Before he died my dad said, “I am so happy I lived to get to see you working there.”
Ron and Shirley remember volunteering with the Mission back in the 70s like it was just last week. Times were different then, but the Mission still needed all of the help it could get to keep its doors open. “I remember when we got our first government funding,” Ron says, “we could finally do repairs on the building!” Mission Services still owes a huge thank-you to the many people like Ron and Shirley who sustained it through those early years.
“When we opened Inasmuch House and when we bought the Jamesville tavern next to the original shelter.”
IN THEIR WORDS
“Winnipeg was the fun town in those days. There weren’t many places to meet girls in Hamilton. But I lucked out and met Shirley at a dance at the Y in 1958. We were marooned in a corner, so we thought we might as well take to the floor. We married in November that year. Everything was nickel and dime in the 70’s, especially at the Mission. We survived thanks to local churches. When I joined the board, we would go around the table before each meeting and everyone would pray. It would take an hour or so before the meeting got started, so eventually we decided just one person would pray! I’ve always said, if everyone would do one thing for their community and one thing for their children, the world would be a great place.”
“We went to a lot of meetings in those days. Church meetings and board meetings. Enos Bearinger often gave us a ride and hardly ever used his car brakes. One time, his driving cost us the pies made by another board member for the men staying at the shelter. I don’t think anyone had the heart to tell her that her efforts went to waste!”
Over the years Teresa has made many memories at Mission Services, and she’s given us many in return. Her husband, Tim, found recovery in the Suntrac Wellness and Addiction Treatment Centre in the early 2000’s and spent several years helping other men on their own journeys of recovery before he was taken from Teresa far too early by cancer.
“Watching Tim give tours of the addiction program. By the time he was done telling people about his journey through recovery, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the room. Being so close to people at the Mission has a way of weeding away the things that don’t matter.”
IN HER WORDS
“I believe God brought Tim and I together. We met when I was working at the Mission and Tim was volunteering in the Suntrac Aftercare program. We both carried our own baggage. Tim came from a broken, abusive home, and I was rebuilding after a broken marriage. We both had healing to do, but over time he put me back together in every way that a human can. I learned to smile again and find joy.
If you were a child or a senior or an animal, you loved Tim. He was a humble guy who looked like he fell off the back of a Harley. He was very down to earth. The only possession he took pride in was his yellow Ford truck. He was bright, but he never had a chance to finish high school. He moved out at 16 and used alcohol until it became an addiction that took everything away from him. For a long time, he was homeless but didn’t want to admit it.
At Suntrac Tim finally surrendered to the process of recovery. He started volunteering, then got a job at the Mission in maintenance. He never stopped coming to the Aftercare program to help other men, even after his diagnosis. Some nights he was so weak he probably shouldn’t have gone, but the work always lifted him up. Once, a friend asked Tim when he would be done his recovery. Tim said he was always on the road to recovery. When his friend heard that Tim passed away he said that meant Tim had finally arrived at a full recovery. He had just received his 15 year sobriety coin the month before.”
Arleigh has donated her birthday and Christmas gift money to Mission Services for 2 years now, along with her her brother and sister. “We have always tried to make our children aware of how blessed they are,” says Arleigh’s mom, Donna. “But they always choose where they want to donate or volunteer.”
Arleigh’s mom and dad both work in emergency health services and see the connection between poor health and poverty. “You can tell some of the injuries in the trauma ward are related to social and economic factors,” Arleigh’s mom, Donna, says, “such as not living in safe housing. Teaching our children about giving back is simply the least that we can do.”
“Giving a speech to my class about Mission Services.”
IN HER WORDS
“I’ve always liked helping homeless people. It started when I would pick up the mail and saw the letters asking for help for people who didn’t have homes to live in. I decided to give my birthday money and Christmas money away. I don’t get an allowance, but if I did I think I would give that too. My favourite subjects in school are science and art and PE. I like volleyball and tennis. I want to be a delivery nurse when I grow up. In school I gave a speech about how Mission Services helps people and how anyone can get involved by giving or volunteering. I like giving because it always makes me feel better if I am down and stuff. When I see how much I have and that I could either get something for me or help someone else out, I like to help someone else out.”
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