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April 3, 2020

Lutherans find new ways to serve community in the midst of COVID-19

These past few weeks have been challenging in many ways as we do our part to flatten the curve and prevent further spread of COVID-19. But how has this impacted those who, even before recent restrictions on our day-to-day lives, are struggling to make ends meet and have food for their families? Victoria’s Shelbourne Community Kitchen, Winnipeg’s Lutheran Urban Ministry and Regina’s Trinity Lutheran each provide their own community outreach initiatives and have seen first-hand the impact the pandemic has had on how they are able to deliver their programs and reach out to those they serve.

“The first thing we had to stop was our cooking classes and work in our garden,” says Clarice Dillman, Board Chair of Shelbourne Community Kitchen. “We then turned our full attention to our food distribution centre. We created a ‘window service’ styled approach so nobody has to enter the building, keeping all of our volunteers safe.”

‘The Kitchen’ differs from most local food banks to the extent that it allows choice. The use of baby monitors out front of the facility now help volunteers effectively prepare orders for customers. An emergency home food delivery system has also been set in place, with 20-plus meals being hand-delivered weekly.

Dillman says the organization is having a hard time keeping up with demand and is asking for more financial support to continue this important work. “We have a wonderful connection with the churches of the area and support each other any way we can. The Lutheran Church of the Cross is where we began; they have been there for us 100 percent and we hope to continue this journey with their support. We’re not many, but we’re mighty.”

In Winnipeg, Lutheran Urban Ministry has been forced to suspend all programming, which includes weekly sharing circles, sit-down meals, men’s group and worship services. Despite having to put in place appropriate physical distancing measures, ‘The Urban’ continues to serve their community by handing out bagged meals at the door four times weekly.

“I am glad we're able to continue to provide something to people in the form of bagged lunches, and hopefully we'll be open completely again by September,” says Rhonda Gorham, Ministry Manager. “The meal teams that were scheduled on our calendar have been wonderful in agreeing to change their menus from meals to bagged lunches. More than ever, we still have our regulars at the door. Our lineup is now six feet apart and just one person at the door in these times.”

An added difficulty is the fact that The Urban has also lost a portion of its food supply. Amidst the spread of COVID-19, a local food distribution centre has cut back its deliveries to food banks to just once monthly, with no additional surplus available.

“During this pandemic, I ask you to keep the vulnerable and struggling people within this country in your prayers,” Gorham says.

In Regina, Trinity Lutheran can be found in the inner-city Heritage neighbourhood. Rev. Sarah Dymund says that for a number of years, Trinity has kept a cupboard of non-perishable food items on hand. “When our neighbours come to us, we help. We serve people in the community who just can’t make ends meet. Some single individuals, but mostly parents and other family members who need help making sure the children they care for get enough to eat.”

Th program provides a paper bag with food for one person for one day. Each person who comes to Trinity can pick up enough bags for however many people they have in their household.

As restrictions around COVID-19 have ramped up, Trinity has seen a sharp increase in the number of people accessing their food bank. Back in November they were providing food for about 30 people. That number has since tripled and they are current assisting about 90 people each day.

“We have been planning for the last several months to become more organized and streamline our process, and since the COVID-19 crisis, we have had to implement new systems very quickly,” says Dymund. “We have also had to be very proactive about seeking contributions of money, food and time from members of our congregation and the wider community.”

These are just a few of the examples of community outreach taking place across the ELCIC. We know there are many other programs and initiatives. If you would like to share your story, contact us at info@elcic.ca

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