Outreach continues with health precautions

Doug Milander in the early days of the pandemic, with a mask outdoors handing out gift cards and bus tickets.

It's a challenging time for the Cathedral's Outreach Committee. The number of people-in-need is ticking upwards, the weather is getting chillier, and COVID-19 is still lurking around many corners.

“Our average number of guests for Monday Morning Outreach has always been 40-ish in past years, but we're routinely seeing 50-to-60 people a month throughout 2023,” Outreach Committee treasurer Doug Milander said.

“We've noticed that more families with small kids are coming, more newcomers to Canada, even international students,” he said. “Rising inflation, high grocery prices, steep rents have been taking a toll on everybody. We hear a lot of sad stories.”

Volunteer Mary Lou Cotter packs goodie bags.

He added that people really appreciate what's offered with a smile: a $10 gift card for a supermarket, some non-perishable groceries, a goodie bag with homemade treats and fresh fruit, free used clothing and toiletries.

The committee is blessed with a good budget from the cathedral coffers, donations from some individuals as well as from New Maryland United Church, and a steady supply of fresh fruit from St. Margaret's Anglican Church.

A kind-hearted squad of cathedral members bakes cookies and muffins, or makes sandwiches, for the goodie bags. “People are so good, and we're more than grateful for the help,” Doug noted.

What was once normal for Monday Morning Outreach: a room buzzing with people chatting, live music, and plenty of food served buffet style.

The committee thought the pandemic would be truly over by now so that indoor, buffet-style gatherings could resume for the guests who enjoy the chance to get out of the cold and socialize.

“New mutations of the virus keep popping up, and hospitalizations are rising again lately,” Doug said. “We hesitate to revert to a sit-down event because we want to keep our volunteers and guests as safe as possible.”

Local blogger Charles LeBlanc with then-parish nurse Kathleen Snow who offered blood pressure and glucose testing for guests.

He notes that the number of volunteers has already dwindled. Some folks who participated regularly have died, fallen ill, left the cathedral during the pandemic and never returned, or found other priorities. The parish nurse was also a valued aspect of the Monday gatherings, and now there is none.

- by Ann Deveau

If you would like to help prepare food or volunteer to help on the last Monday of the month, please contact the Cathedral Office (506) 450-8500.


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