CBC Interview: Challenges of outreach during a pandemic



The Cathedral's Monday Outreach is a longstanding program which aims to provide comfort and support to individuals in our community who are financially disadvantaged. Dean Geoffrey Hall was recently interviewed about the program by Terry Seguin, host of CBC Information Morning. He was joined by Jane Blakely from St. Paul’s United Church and Lynn McKinnon from Wilmot United Church. Together, they all spoke of the challenges and blessings of running outreach programs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Listen to the segment aired on 18 January, 2021.

A look back at Monday Outreach during the pandemic

December 2020: Normally, the Cathedral Outreach Committee stages a big, colourful Christmas party for upwards of 65 people in need, complete with a Bible reading about the birth of Jesus, a decorated tree, live music, abundant food and coffee, and gift bags for all. By necessity, the 2020 version was much quieter. Forty-three people filed past to receive a $20 grocery voucher and a small gift bag containing homemade cookies, fruit, chocolates, candy canes, granola bars, hot chocolate packets, tissues, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a Christmas card. Children got an extra little gift, and adults could choose from items such as scarves, socks and soap. One visitor said: "Thanks for doing what you can to help us when so many others have pulled back in fear of the virus." The next voucher distribution, assuming health regulations allow, will take place outdoors at Cathedral Memorial Hall on Monday, January 25, 2021.

November 2020: Volunteer Sandy Robb poses with cookies she baked as well as fruit, juice, muffins, cookies and other treats to be packed into goodie bags for Monday Morning Outreach guests. November was the ninth month that the Outreach Committee has distributed goodie bags and bus tickets or $10 gift cards for supermarkets to people in need outdoors at Cathedral Memorial Hall. The pandemic has prevented the usual weekly indoor gatherings which featured a buffet of food items, a used clothing bank, live music, a Bible study, and services of the parish nurse. Average monthly attendance had been 45 people, but 55 turned up Nov. 30th including a dozen who were new to the program. The committee, which hopes to continue its efforts throughout the winter, thanks the congregation for its ongoing support.

October 2020: “DC,” one of 48 guests, picks up his voucher and goodie bag at Cathedral Memorial Hall on Monday morning, Oct. 26th. The Outreach Committee thanks the cathedral family for baking cookies and muffins and for donating chocolate, chips and other treats. St. Margaret's Anglican Church donated bananas and citrus fruit. The Outreach budget paid for city transit tickets and $10 gift cards to supermarkets. Another guest said: “Thank you for the special effort you put out every month. I really like coming here.”

September 2020: Bill Turney from the cathedral congregation adds to a big bowl of treats to be packed into goodie bags for people in need. Bill and his wife Carolyn are among the frequent contributors to the Monday morning outreach program, baking delicious cookies for the guests. On Sept. 28th, 48 people received goodie bags, plus either city bus tickets or a $10 gift card for a local supermarket. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, distribution is done outdoors on the steps at the hall with social distancing. This method has been used since March and will be repeated again Oct. 26th. The outreach team thanks the congregation for its support.

 

Here are a few comments from our guests to help you realize how important your contribution is to these folks:
  • "This is like gold to me!" - B.W., looking in his goodie bag; he had eaten nothing except Mr. Noodle for a week
  • "Oh wow, I never get fruit!" - M.B., reaching immediately into the bag for a banana
  • "Thank you so much for helping us out!" - H.C., who has four young children

This was the Outreach Committee's seventh month distributing gift cards and bus tickets outdoors since the pandemic started. The average attendance over that period has been 44 guests per month.

August 2020: Fran Miles, recently retired Office Administrator at the cathedral, made a big batch of her famous "healthy cookies" for the goodie bags handed out to people in need on Aug. 31st. Due to the pandemic, the weekly drop-in, featuring self-serve food and coffee, live music, a used clothing bank and the services of the parish nurse, has not been held since mid-March. However, supermarket gift cards are distributed outdoors at Cathedral Memorial Hall on the last Monday of the month. This time 38 people received a $10 gift card or bus tickets, plus a goodie bag containing bananas, homemade muffins, cookies, a cheese sandwich, a cereal bar, and bottled water.

July 2020: Canon Patricia Drummond packs goodie bags as part of the cathedral's summer outreach efforts. Due to the pandemic, the weekly drop-in for people in need has not been held since mid-March, but supermarket gift cards are distributed outdoors on the last Monday of the month. On July 27th, 50 people received a gift card or bus tickets plus a bar of soap and a goodie bag containing bananas, homemade muffins, cookies, a sandwich, a granola bar, and bottled water. Food items were donated by members of the cathedral family.

June 2020: Before the pandemic, St. Margaret's Anglican parish in Fredericton helped monthly with outreach drop-ins at Christ Church Cathedral. That event has not been held indoors in the normal way since mid-March, but grocery store gift cards are distributed outdoors to people in need on the last Monday of the month. Penny Ericson (left), chair of the outreach committee, was delighted to receive a large donation of bananas delivered by Wendy and Rick Chase from St. Margaret's to help with the June 29th session. On that date 48 people received a gift card or some bus tickets plus a bar of soap and a goodie bag containing bananas, homemade muffins and cookies, and bottled water - all donated by members of the cathedral family.

May 2020: This morning, forty-five outreach guests received goodie bags, along with a $10 gift card for a local supermarket, at Cathedral Memorial Hall. Despite the recent provincial move into the less restrictive yellow zone during the pandemic, an indoor, sit-down drop-in with self-serve food and beverages is not permitted at this time. People were pleased with the surprise treats, the warmer weather, and news that a similar outdoor distribution of vouchers will be done again next month.

April 2020: Due to COVID-19, the Outreach Committee can't operate its Monday morning drop-ins in the usual way, i.e., refreshments, used clothing bank, live music, Bible study, and services of the parish nurse. However, on the last Monday morning of the month, people in need can stop by Cathedral Memorial Hall to get a $10 gift card for a local supermarket. Outreach Committee treasurer Doug Milander distributed the gift cards outdoors to 40 people on April 27th. Appropriate social distancing was followed.

March 30, 2020: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Outreach Committee can't operate its normal Monday morning drop-in for people in need at this time, but its volunteers did hand out $10 gift cards for local supermarkets on March 30th. The vouchers were distributed outdoors at Cathedral Memorial Hall to 32 people. Brent Wheaton (standing by the sign) and Danny Brewer were among those who really appreciated the help with groceries at this challenging time.

March 16, 2020: Volunteers wearing gloves served food and beverages to outreach drop-in guests, rather than the usual buffet-style format. Seating was carefully arranged to ensure social distancing. Our parish nurse gave a short talk about ways to avoid COVID-19, and the minister from New Maryland United Church offered a beautiful prayer. There will be no gathering March 23rd. On March 30th the plan is to quickly distribute vouchers on the front steps of the church hall, but no drop-in will be held. Plans for April will be formulated based on the situation at the time and advice from the health department. Please keep these vulnerable members of our community in your prayers at this challenging time.

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