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Meals and blankets for homeless people, helping low-income kids go to camp, support for refugees—these are some of the ways the Mennonite Disaster Service Canada Spirit of MDS Fund helped Canadian congregations and organizations serve their communities.

Altogether, $117,900 CAD/$90,641 U.S. has been granted to 26 groups since September last year through the Fund, which exists to help local people address practical needs in their communities.

The Lethbridge, Alberta Soup Kitchen received a grant. “The much-appreciated donation assisted us with operational costs related to gathering food required to make meals as well as preparation,” said Executive Director Bill Ginther.

The organization, which provides up to 7,500 meals a month, received the support through the Coaldale Mennonite Church.

“A lot of our members contribute to the soup kitchen individually,” said Peter Janzen, a deacon at Coaldale Mennonite Church. “The donation MDS Canada provided was very meaningful not only to them but to our congregation as well.”

The Langley, B.C. Vineyard Church operates a ministry serving homeless people that is also supported by the Langley Mennonite Fellowship.

When the church ran out of blankets last fall, with the cold winter season around the corner, “MDS stepped in to fill the void,” said Walter Paetkau, Chair of the Langley Mennonite Fellowship Peace and Social Concerns Committee.

The grant from the Spirit of MDS Fund was used to buy 500 blankets, he said, telling the story of Alex, who came to the church “shivering and cold.”

Alex, he said, “was very thankful for a warm cup of coffee, a hot meal, some gloves and a dry blanket that he could easily carry around.”

Brother John Frampton at Toronto’s St. Francis Table, a soup kitchen supported by the Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, recalled a woman dealing with addictions who said it is a place where “’everyone can be somebody, even if they ain’t nobody.’”

“Thank you for helping make that possible,” Frampton said.

At Urban Promise, an inner-city ministry in Toronto also supported by the Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, the grant was used to provide camp free to children living in low-income housing and hire youth in the neighbourhood to lead the camps.

“With the funds we received from MDS, we were able to provide crafts, small outings and a consistent camp for children,” said Christine Lee, adding the camp is a place where “children come and experience the love of God.”

Other ways the Fund helped included:

  • The Freedom Gospel Ethiopian Church in Toronto helped 11 people by providing a rent payment, food for a family and grocery cards.
  • Global Gathering Place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, which supports refugees and newcomers, received its grant through Mount Royal Mennonite Church in that city. It used the funds for groceries, bus passes, diapers, prescriptions and emergency housing, among other things.
  • Gospel Mission Church in Winkler, Manitoba used funds for Love the Valley, its annual event that provides lunches and hampers and engages members to do yard work for low-income people in the community.
  • The Baccalieu Trail Community Church in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland built a kitchen at the church to serve seniors and low-income individuals who need a place to go to get a hot meal and warm up.
  • The Winkler, Manitoba, Mennonite Brethren Church assisted Winnipeg’s Turtle Island Community Center, a ministry that serves First Nations people in that city. The money was used to repair and upgrade an older house that serves as a residence for women who live in Winnipeg’s North End.

The Spirit of MDS Fund was started in spring, 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic when MDS Canada, unable to do its regular service, decided to provide help to congregations assisting people in their communities impacted by COVID-19. Since then the Fund has been offered three times, with a total of $324,800 CAD/$249,704 U.S. granted.

The Fund is no longer linked to the pandemic, but part of MDS Canada’s ongoing program.

For Ross Penner, Director of Canadian Operations, the Fund is a way for MDS Canada “to recognize a lot of really good hands-on work is happening in Canada through congregations. Through it, we can come alongside these churches and support their members as they volunteer to help people in their communities.”

Grants of up to $5,000 are available to Canadian churches. Learn more about the Spirit of MDS Fund.

John Longhurst, MDS Canada Communications

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