Some of Winnipeg’s less-fortunate community had two words for Gifts of Grace Street Mission on Aug. 21.
"Happy anniversary!" said Nikki, who was not allowed to use her last name, with a smile.
The volunteer mission, which is based out of St. Saviour Anglican Church at 690 Munroe Ave. and is supported by Transcona Memorial United Church at 209 Yale Ave. W., marked two years in action that night with a barbecue at the corner of Austin Street and Henry Avenue. The site was about half a block east of the normal serving site at the loop at the Salvation Army Booth Centre which was cordoned off because of a police investigation. A heavy downpour hit the festivities later on as well.
The mission is used to finding ways to make things work, though. It boasts over 100 volunteers from all over the city in its stable between servers, cooks, bakers, drivers and other helpers who feed people twice a week with donated food.
"It came from a wish from some of our friends who wanted to serve people on the street," explained East Kildonan resident Kendra Jackson, one of the co-founders with Kim McIntyre and Bob Buchanan. "The purpose was to serve food to people who can’t go into other missions. If you’re sniffing or you’re drunk, you can’t go into Salvation Army or you can’t go into Siloam, for example, but you can still eat outside on the street.
"We figured if we’re outside, anyone can eat."
In addition to serving food, the mission also offers clothing and toiletries to those who show up. The number fluctuates between 150 and 200 every Thursday and Sunday, with summer servings generally bringing out more people. In the winter, Gifts of Grace serves at Main Street Project on Thursday and Red Road Lodge on Sunday, where it offers breakfast and a movie.
McIntyre noted it’s not always homeless people who come out.
"There are people who are in apartments who are on assistance, but you don’t get a whole lot of money once you pay your rent," said the West Kildonan resident. "Sometimes, people need a fill-in meal. The sandwiches are nice, since sometimes the people who are working will take a couple extra sandwiches for tomorrow."
Both explained that friends and co-workers have been willing to come out to volunteer as a fill-in, but they tend to stay on in a more permanent capacity.
For the second anniversary barbecue, Derksen Mechanical Services paid for all the food, and Wolseley Mechanical Group brought its barbecue and employees to cook all 600 hot dogs. Additionally, regular contributors include Sobeys, Oma’s Bakeshop, Cottage Bakery and Core-Mark.
For more information or to volunteer, visit https://www.facebook.com/GiftsofGraceStreetMission or call St. Saviour at 204-667-0336.