One month into his new position as executive director of Our Place Society, Don Evans is forging partnerships to help keep the doors open and the meals flowing to people in need.
“When I came in here, and I saw that they were closed on weekends and holidays, I realized that we were going to be closed for four days during Easter,” he said.
The society runs a deficit, so paying staff overtime to open on a holiday would be difficult, he said.
At the same time, he added, “it was difficult for me to think that many of these people might have a hard time finding a meal during those days, so what I did was just reach out to the churches.”
He received a great response.
Nine faith groups in the Capital Region stepped forward to pay for, prepare and serve three meals on Good Friday and Easter Monday at Our Place.
Others are also getting involved.
“There have been a few staff that said they would like to come in and volunteer for those days,” Evans said.
The SingYourJoy choir will also take part, performing for diners on Sunday, as well as breaking into song on Monday while serving dinner alongside volunteers from Oak Bay United.
“The choir is a non-auditioned group of young people and their focus is really about becoming community and learning about community … then offering something back,” said Gordon Miller, one of its two conductors.
The dinner at Our Place was the kind of situation they were waiting for, he said.
“There’s a learning opportunity here, because I would say only two of the 45 members have ever been inside Our Place.
“They’re going into it thinking they’re going to contribute something to the homeless, which they are. But the bigger picture is that they’re going to get a chance to meet some of these people face to face over the meal that they’re helping to serve.”
On Sunday, the singers, aged 16 to 29, plan to sing “Ordinary Miracle” by Sarah McLachlan.
This is the first time Our Place Society has partnered with local faith communities to open on a holiday.
Partnerships like these are part of Evans’ plan to achieve the society’s goal of opening seven days a week.
“If we could continue to get this kind of support, whether it’s from the faith community or the business community, that could certainly help us,” he said.
“I’m going to be exploring some other ways that maybe the business community could sponsor a breakfast during the week, and that would help us free up some money to provide meals on the weekend.”
Faith groups stepping forward:
• Church of St. John the Divine (Victoria)
• Lutheran of the Cross (Saanich)
• Christ Church Cathedral (Victoria)
• Chinese Presbyterian Church (Victoria)
• St. Aidan’s United Church (Saanich)
• Avodah (Congregation Emanu-El, Victoria)
• Cordova Bay United Church (Saanich)
• First Metropolitan United Church (Victoria)
• Oak Bay United Church (Oak Bay)