Outreach Watches and Waits for the Right Time

In this pre-pandemic photo, Cathedral members gather for fellowship with Outreach guests.

A couple years ago we had never heard of the coronavirus, the delta variant or the 4th wave. Now everyone is aware of these lurking threats to our health and safety.

“When the Province declared the green phase of the pandemic, we were excited to think that we could welcome back our Monday morning drop-in friends for weekly gatherings in September,” said Outreach Committee chair Penny Ericson.

“However, the delta variant is much more transmissible and deadlier than earlier versions of COVID-19; at this time we can't risk indoor, sit-down gatherings with a food buffet, live music, and a display of used clothing and housewares for people in need.”

Penny said it's important to be cautious and protective for the sake of the guests and the volunteers.

Rev. Kelly Burke of New Maryland United Church, whose congregation supports the cathedral's outreach efforts with volunteers, food donations and funds, agrees.

Before the pandemic, visitors were welcomed into the hall for a variety of food and drinks.

“It's hard not to come and be present to all our friends, but safety first,” she said. “This delta variant means that we need to be vigilant. We send our love and prayers and will see you again when it is good and safe to do so.”

Marc Schneider has been learning new songs on his banjo during the pandemic, so that the band at the drop-in would have a larger repertoire of gospel music when things returned to normal.

“It makes sense to wait, but it's sad,” he said.  “The personal relationships and support in the Monday morning community were very important to volunteers and guests alike. Maybe some day....”

Mary Lou Cotter worked in the kitchen on Monday mornings, serving coffee, making sandwiches, sharing her delicious homemade muffins. She is typical of other cathedral parishioners who help to run the program. “Let me know what I can do to help while we wait and see,” she said.

Goodie bags are currently distributed to Outreach guests one Monday each month.

Goodie bags with fresh fruit, cold drinks, homemade baking, cheese, and granola bars will continue to be distributed outdoors at Cathedral Memorial Hall on the last Monday morning of the month. People in need who stop by are also offered a $10 gift card for a local supermarket or some bus tickets. The average “attendance” is 46.

“We provided this modest help every single month throughout the pandemic, thanks to the support of our church family, our volunteers and St. Margaret's Anglican Church which supplies fruit,” Penny said.

“We'll keep doing it in this way, but we'll keep reassessing the situation until we're sure it's safe to welcome everybody back inside for what was always a fun time.”

-- by Ann Deveau



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