Update from Local Initiatives

Some of you may have heard Laurie Whitaker’s report on what has been happening in Local Initiatives at the Annual General Meeting on January 28. We wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to read about what God has been doing the last six months and hear about the opportunities that lie before us in the immediate future. Laurie’s report is re-printed below:

It is my privilege to provide you with an update on what has been happening within Local Initiatives! For me personally, the installation of the Local Banner here in the sanctuary in December was a very significant moment, and whenever I look at it, it serves as a reminder of God’s call on my heart—and I hope to you as well—that here at CrossRoads we care deeply for the single parent and vulnerable youth within our church body and in our local community. We feel called to offer spiritual and practical support to those who parent alone and to mentor youth.

I was excited when Pastor Dan told me last year that he was going to be guiding us through the book of Deuteronomy. When you take time to read it through, it demonstrates God’s heart for the vulnerable as God instructs His people to care for the orphan, the widow, the fatherless and the foreigner. God’s people were to care and make provision for these vulnerable people, not only because it was commanded, but as a grateful response to remembering what God has done for them in delivering them from slavery. As we know God’s character to be unchanging, it is still a call to us today to be generous, just, openhanded, and compassionate to those who parent alone, the fatherless, the vulnerable in our midst, and those who come across our path. To care for them not as an assigned task, but out of a heart of thanksgiving because God has been a gracious deliverer of us. He is generous and compassionate even in our sinfulness and frailty and time of need.

Did you know?

  • Single moms are one of the fastest-growing populations in the world.
  • Single moms are the highest unchurched population in the world.
  • 95 percent of single moms are unchurched.
  • Of the small number of single moms in the church, many feel that they do not fit in and will leave.

Single Moms Fellowship

Since my last report to you, I am pleased to say that a Single Moms Fellowship has been meeting since October here at CrossRoads. The intent is to meet both these women’s spiritual and practical needs, to foster friendships and their support of one another, and to connect them to other ministries, groups, and resources within the church and community.

There are 19 women who have attended this group, and they are reporting that they are feeling a sense of community and support.

While we may be saddened by the circumstances and choices that have brought these women to this place, we are called to provide support and hope to those who find themselves here, and it is the desire of the leadership of this group that this would be a place where a single mother’s faith in God would grow, and that she would have access to people and resources she needs in her singleness and parenting.

They come together from different backgrounds and circumstances, journeying through different struggles towards different dreams. Their commonality is parenting and the desire to do it well. They are a great example to me of showing love to each other and sharing life together.

There is a need for this support to dads who are parenting alone, a need for other men and families to come alongside these dads and walk with them. I would ask that you please prayerfully consider your involvement with these women and men.

As well, there is a need for men and women to serve in the area of childcare during these monthly meetings.

In time we see this developing into an outreach into our community with our local partners—as we continue to grow deeper with these agencies.

One of those partners is the Pregnancy Care Centre.

Pregnancy Care Centre

Through your generosity in December with the Compassion Campaign, we will fulfill our commitment to the CAPCC for the full funding of the positon hired to manage their housing program implementation. We have made a three-year commitment to this position. Edie Hiebert has been hired by the CAPCC for this role and will oversee the build of the physical site and also the development of operational policies and procedures.

The current building and vacant lot at 5112 and 5116 47th street have been secured and are now legally registered to CAPCC.

This housing project is the first in Canada to be attached to a Pregnancy Care Centre and will house up to 11 women and house parents in addition to all of their current operations and services.

The mission of the housing project is to remove barriers for women to carry their baby to term by creating a safe and healthy environment, equipping them with life and/or parenting skills.

It will also allow opportunity to build deep and long term relationships with these young women.

The need for this is great—as historically in Central Alberta, housing for this demographic has not been addressed by any organization, agency or partnership.

Projected occupancy date for phase 1 is early fall 2015. Phase one is the renovation of the current building which will house 4 women.

This spring there will be a call out for CrossRoads individuals and small groups to roll up their sleeves and give of their time, skills, and physical labour in a variety of ways as this project moves forward. There will also be opportunities to furnish and finish rooms and common areas that these young women will be moving into.

Currently and on a go forward basis, the PCC is in need of mentors for both women and men who find themselves facing an unplanned pregnancy. On a long-term basis this project requires persons willing to serve through mentoring, childcare, grounds and home maintenance, and the leading of lifeskill sessions and Bible studies.

We see great potential for our Single Moms Fellowship to gather with these women and welcome them into our community.

 

Women’s Outreach

 

  • Did you know that Red Deer has the highest percentage of lone parent families in Alberta at 19.9 percent (provincial average is 16.2 percent, and national average is 17.9 percent). Thirty-eight percent of those lone parent families in Red Deer are considered low income. Many of these families are the ones that our Women’s Outreach serves.

 

Last August, through your generosity, more than 1,080 pairs of shoes were given to Women’s Outreach to distribute to kids in Central Alberta. Through our relationship with the Outreach Centre, our eyes have been opened to the fact that there are situations in our community that are not pretty. There are more families in distress than we were aware of, more children growing up in environments of not just financial need but of conflict, witnessing sights, hearing words, experiencing hurt, walking the streets of our neighbourhoods with downcast eyes and spirits, and duct taped shoes.

Do you remember the duct tape story?

A woman called in to the Outreach Centre for the first time wanting to know if she could access some school supplies.  When Mom and her three children arrived at the Centre, a staff member met them and as they were walking to the supply room, the staff noticed that the kid’s shoes were covered in duct tape and electrical tape which was being used to hold these shoes together due to holes and tears. The worker let the mom and kids pick up supplies and then led them into a room full of shoes that YOU gave. The kids were told that they could each pick out a pair of shoes. Mom broke down in tears and the kids were in awe of all the shoes. While they were picking out shoes the staff at the Centre met with the mom to find out more of her story—perhaps the very first time she had someone to listen to her.   The youngest child in this family was a little girl—when she stood up in her new pair of shoes, she looked at her mom with amazement and said, “Mommy! I can wiggle my toes!”

The shoes she had worn into the centre that day were being worn long after this little girl had outgrown them, but they were all she had and for whatever reasons, no new shoes could be purchased.

Have you thought about the possibility that the shoes those kids picked out could be the shoes YOU purchased? Was it YOUR obedience in giving that blessed those kids beyond what they could have imagined? Is it your note that they pull out from under their pillow or the bottom of a dresser drawer on a day that seems overwhelming and they feel that they are forgotten and overlooked? Is it your words that they read again, telling them that someone cares, that God loves them and they are important and valued.

We cannot underestimate the power in the giving of a pair of shoes, or the impact of a few written words.

A significant difference was made in the lives of that mom and her children. The Outreach centre has told me that they have been able to connect that mom and her children to other resources in our community that she was in need of due to a difficult situation at home.

In August 2015 we will once again be collecting back-to-school shoes. This year we have been invited by the Outreach centre to take on the responsibility and honor of meeting with the children and help them to select a pair of shoes. This will give us the opportunity for person-to-person interaction with these kids. We will also once again be able to pass on information about our ministries at CrossRoads, extend a personal invitation to these families to join us, and be a reflection of Jesus in these lives through this interaction. This will happen at the end of August and early September. There will be notice and invitation for people to sign up to serve in this capacity.

Youth and Volunteer Centre

Our relationship with the Youth and Volunteer Centre continues to develop—since my last report to you, we have completed the renovation project which saw five people who were sharing a very cramped space move into a spacious and functional office in the YVC building. I have visited the ladies who are in that space, and they pass on to you a very heartfelt THANK YOU. They were excited to show off their new room and work stations that allow them sufficient space to work efficiently and have some privacy.

We also committed to funding Bounce—an afterschool small group mentoring program. With the financial support CrossRoads has provided, it is running two days a week for kids ages 8 to 12 years at both the Normandeau Rink Shelter and Fairview school.

Group mentoring is shown to foster positive social and emotional development among youth, which enables them to develop stronger friendships, manage their emotions, and do better in school.

This program is run by the Boys & Girls Club Program Coordinator and support staff.

The Fairview Bounce leaders have told me that they noticed positive responses to the intentional programming and the leaders have had opportunities to build strong one-on-one relationships with each of the kids. Teachers and school staff report that the Bounce program has had a positive impact on the children who attend it. The Fairview School Principle Mike Fritz says that the Bounce program allows kids to succeed in different areas when they are not so successful academically. One of the good stories that has come out of the program this past session is from a 9-year-old girl who for the first time is stating that she loves school. This young girl’s mother feels that finding this program has been a complete blessing to her family.

Normandeau Club leaders report that most of the kids who attend their program have behavioural disorders. There has been great improvement noted since they started attending Bounce. Bounce in Normandeau has focused on relationship building. Kids are now feeling like it is safe to talk and share about what is going on in their lives, even seeking advice on situations that they are struggling to find a solution for. One leader told me, “Instead of the negativity that they get in their day-to-day lives, we surround them with positivity and hope and fuel their ambitions to help create confidence and independence that will help them face the world one step at a time.”

Mentoring

I will continue to bring to CrossRoads’ attention the need for one-on-one mentors for youth in our city. Big Brothers Big Sisters organization continues to have a waitlist of children and youth—especially boys—who are waiting for a mentor. At the time of my writing this report, there were 45 kids on the waitlist for a match. Seventeen girls and twenty-eight boys.

Mentoring is universally accepted to be the greatest opportunity and avenue for influence on another person’s life.

BBBS Red Deer is now involved in a new opportunity entitled Youth In Care Program. Extra training is offered to mentors who choose to be matched to a child who is at risk in our community.

There are currently twelve Youth in Care on this waitlist: five girls and seven boys.

Mentoring requires the investment of ourselves and our time—two things that we tend to have a challenge being generous with. Our days are full—of things and people that we put value or priority on.

Currently these 55 young people are waiting for someone to put value on them … to show through the giving of one hour a week that they are important and worth spending time with. That they have significance. Some unfortunately will wait and wait and wait…

A few months ago our youth pastors invited staff from YVC to come and tour our youth wing. We have extended an invitation to them for the use of our facility for kids on their waitlist, Boys and Girls Club events and as a space that big and little matches can use to enjoy their time together.

Kids who are on the waitlist are invited to an activity every month where they come together as a group with supervision to have an experience while they are waiting for a one-on-one match. Perhaps you have an experience you could offer these waiting ones—a visit to your farm? Or maybe you have a business that produces or manufactures something these kids would enjoy seeing? This is another way you could get involved and support our BBBS agency and the youth they serve.

We will continue to pursue relationship with these agencies and look for new opportunities to partner with them in projects, programming, and sharing of our facilities.

As always I am available to answer any questions regarding our involvement with these agencies, and I am here to help you connect with any of the opportunities for engagement that I have brought before you tonight.

God continues to call and invite us to be a part of His work in the lives of our neighbours and in our community.

Thank you,

Laurie Whitaker

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