Christmas at Mission Services
– From our Christmas Newsletter, 2014 –
Your generosity over Christmas will touch the lives of people seeking food, shelter, support and safety. Their journeys are all unique, but each person is seeking compassionate care to help them through challenging times. Here are just a few of those stories this Christmas…
From a first glance, it’s clear that Sara is what you call a Super Mom. She takes care of her two boys, Isaac and Ryan, all on her own. Both are under five and keep their mom busy on her feet for most of the day – running, catching, corralling. Sara also takes care of her parents who have health problems.
But even Super Moms need help some times.
Two years ago, Isaac and Ryan’s dad left them. Sara moved back to Ontario and began working with children and seniors with special needs. But her position didn’t last long, so she had to downsize her apartment more than once. In the process, she discovered first fleas and then bed bugs.
After just furnishing her apartment, Sara had to throw out her boys’ mattresses – twice. After the second time, she simply couldn’t afford to buy two more mattresses again.
She told another parent about her problem and how her boys didn’t have any beds to sleep in. The other parent suggested she go to Mission Services to see if they could assist.
“I had never really used a food bank before,” Sara recalls, “I almost didn’t want to ask for help. Ironically, I used to always be the one saying we needed to donate gifts or toys at Christmas. Now, I was the one who needed donations for my children.”
Sara’s trepidation was put at ease as soon as she started talking to the staff at Mission Services. After explaining her situation, Sara was signed up for the Hope to Dream program, an initiative with Mission Services and Ashley Furniture Store to provide low-income children with clean mattresses.
Within a short time, a new mattress arrived for her boys to share until a second one came.
“It was very exciting when they came to deliver them,” Sara says. They made such a big fuss over both of the boys – they were ecstatic. It was a wonderful experience.”
Sara now uses the The Good Food Centre at Mission Services whenever she has trouble buying enough food for her two boys – and she feels confident doing so. “It really takes the edge off when you can’t afford to look after your own kids,” Sara says. “It also makes them healthier, and for that I am very thankful.
“Your services and the people who make them possible are why my boys will go on to succeed one day.”
What does the future have in store for Sara and her two boys?
“My plan is to get these boys in school and find a stable job. Then I can start giving back at Christmas again,” she adds with a smile.
Vickie could either be in her fifties or sixties. she comes to Mission Services’ food bank, the Good Food Centre, whenever she doesn’t have enough food to make for herself, her daughter and her three grandchildren. As she explains, she never wants to take advantage of assistance. She always tries to remember that there is always someone else who has “even less than me.”
“My daughter’s husband was offered full-time work not long ago,” Vickie explains. “But it turned out to only be casual work. And she doesn’t have a job right now since she’s trying to complete her grade 12 diploma. So, it’s tough.”
Coming to the Good Food Centre gives Vickie and her daughter’s family just enough financial reprieve to stay afloat.
For Vickie, who comes with her youngest grandsons in two – it adds a little bit of joy and comfort to her week.
“This is one of the only places where I can get fresh fruits and vegetables,” she explains. “That’s a real treat for my grandsons. ‘Grandma, apples!’ they’ll cry. And if there are any cookies in the hamper, oh my goodness!” she adds with a laugh.
Being able to talk to a food bank right next door to her grandson’s school is a huge benefit for Vickie. Also, knowing that she will never leave empty-handed and always come home feeling refreshed and uplifted is a reason to continue coming.
“Once we got a strudel cake on my daughter’s birthday,” Vickie says. “I was so happy because I didn’t know what we would have that would be special. It was wonderful.”
“When you find things like that in your food box,” she adds, “it makes you feel amazing.”
Vickie and her daughter do their best to make every dollar (and can of soup) last throughout the week. That’s why they are looking forward to registering for Christmas Care. With a well-stocked hamper, they hope to have a few days of freedom from worrying about where their next supper will come from.
They look forward, then, to having time to dwell on the real meaning of Christmas.
Our last Christmas story takes place many years ago, when Dale, now in his forties and working in downtown Toronto, came to Mission Services’ shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse.
“My sisters and I were very young,” Dale recalls. “But I remember feeling afraid for my mother. I knew she was afraid and so we were too.”
Dale’s mother called a taxi one night after a particularly loud argument with her husband turned violent. Dale, just 11 at the time, came to Inasmuch House wondering where he and his mother and sisters were going to live from now on. Worst of all, it was almost Christmas. “I remember being upset that Santa wouldn’t know where to find us,” Dale says.
“But it turned out to be a sort of blessing in disguise. We left a bad home, and we were taken care of beyond my mother’s wildest imagination. I remember feeling a wave of compassion and support. Staff were so joyful. Volunteers brought us chocolate every day. There was even a choir that came to sing for us.”
“It was one of the darkest times in our lives. But it was also very joyful,” Dale says. “I will never forget the care that we were shown that Christmas.”
He adds: “If I ever need to remind myself what this season is about, I go back to that memory. It’s all right there.”