By Caitlin d'Esterre
As a Community of Christ member, I believe that we are all called, compelled even, to approach our lives in a critical way. We are urged to look at the world around us and see opportunities for growth, change, betterment and empowerment. We are then driven to think outside the four walls of our church, and be innovators to help our communities.
As a nurse in one of the busiest Newborn Intensive Care Units (NICU) in Canada, I see families from all walks of life facing their worst nightmare: a sick newborn baby. One day I was working with a particularly small baby who had never gotten any breastmilk, even though her mother said she was pumping regularly. I asked this mother about the pump she was using. It turned out she couldn’t afford a hospital grade pump rental, which is essential to the milk supply of a NICU mom.
I called every resource in the city looking for an affordable option for this mother. I was startled to learn that most mothers without employer benefits do not qualify for any sort of cost relief. The most vulnerable mothers in our province are denied the opportunity to give their babies breast milk because of finances.
This situation plagued me for months, until I realised that I was being called to invent a solution. My congregation could initiate the kind of service these women needed. After several weeks of work with my pastor and other supporters, The Mother’s Own Milk (MOM) Project was born. The Calgary congregation purchased six hospital grade breast pumps to be rented to mothers at a low monthly cost. We can abolish poverty and end suffering by simply allowing mothers to feed their children the way nature intended.
This was my calling.
Abolish Poverty, End Suffering
By Debra Donohue
Congregational Outreach Specialist
The Chilliwack Garage Sale is the perfect example of an event that is a success even if no church members show up to purchase anything. Chilliwack members run the event, but most of the purchasing is done by their community. Every penny of the money raised goes to charity. This year 50% was donated to World Accord, 25% to Samish Island Campground, and 25% to Chilliwack Supportive Housing.
While I was at the fall garage sale a few weeks ago, I wondered when this had started and who’s brain child it was. That started me on an information gathering mission that I’m going to share with you.
Marie Christensen told me that back in the 70’s the women’s group always held a fall Tea and White Elephant sale. In the early 80’s, (it’s the closest anyone can remember to an actual date), Vic Suddaby brought Executive Director, Terry Fielder, to Chilliwack to talk about Canadian Saints Outreach, this was before World Accord came into being, and it inspired the ladies and the congregation to expand their tea to a garage sale, and that’s how it all began. Shonnet Allen and Janine McCully said that originally the garage sale was held once a year for two consecutive Saturdays, but they started receiving so many donations the congregation decided to hold two 2-day garage sales each year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
Barb Robbins and Joan Welch have always run the kitchen and lunch has always been available at the garage sale. It started as a cheap and convenient way to feed themselves and has evolved to a kitchen with 3 or 4 staff per day serving up coffee, tea, assorted homemade goodies, hot dogs with fried onions, ham and cheese sandwiches, and my personal favourite, egg salad sandwiches.
About 8 years ago the congregation purchased a 53-foot trailer to store the donations. It seems they were tired of losing half of their activity hall as a storage facility.
It takes countless volunteer hours and days to manage the garage sales, from meeting people at the church to collect donations, Janine McCully, Fred Robbins, and Keith Campbell do this, then setting up tables, unpacking the donations, sorting, and pricing everything. An average sale day will have 15-20 members on hand to help.
When I go to the garage sale, I try to get out to help with customers, fill in the blank spots on the tables and do whatever they need me to do, but lately they just tell me to shop. Maybe it’s because in the last couple years I’ve purchased a large triple drawer, triple wide filing cabinet, 5 vases, games, and lots more. Plus, I always go home with a plate full of homemade desserts for my partner. Hey, I’m just trying to be supportive!
Joan Welch started keeping a record of the proceeds back in 2012. Since then, the congregation has raised over $42,000.00. That’s just the proceeds from 5 of the last 40 odd years, an average of $7000 per year. Joan says with results like this, it’s not likely they’ll drop the Chilliwack Garage Sale anytime soon.
Amen to that!
community of christ
355 Elmira Road North, Unit 129
Guelph, ON N1K 1S5 Canada
Canada West Mission: 877-411-2632
Canada East Mission: 888-411-7537