Officials with The Mustard Seed in Red Deer are encouraged by the help and generosity of central Albertans this holiday season.
Mustard Seed Managing Director for Central Alberta, Byron Bradley, says their programs such as Home in a Backpack and Stuff a warm Sock have received a lot of donations for assisting those in need this Christmas.
“You get a backpack, you fill it with items like travel-size shampoo and conditioner, combs, disposable razors, candy, small gift cards for a movie theatre or coffee shops, deodorant, soap, kind of everyday hygiene items,” says Bradley. “In the backpacks, you can put in toques and gloves and things like that and then for the smaller items, you can stuff a sock, so you take a larger sock, stick the other sock inside and fill it up with different items.”
Bradley says they give a lot of those out at Christmas time as they extend their hours to being open every day in the eight days leading up to Christmas.
“We have a lot of people through our doors coming here for meals and looking to warm up,” explains Bradley. “So we like to be generous with people at Christmas time.”
In terms of support, Bradley says it’s been really good so far this season.
“We’ve had a lot of groups step up to sponsor our different meals across the month and so some different corporations, churches and family groups and groups of friends have come in and serving dinner which is great,” says Bradley. “We serve dinner every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and the volunteer shift is from 5:00 – 7:30 p.m. and so most of those are filled up but we still have a lot of spots for prep volunteers during the daytime and that usually runs from about 12 until 3.”
Bradley says the Mustard Seed also has a School Lunch program every school day of the year where they make and deliver between 350 and 385 lunches.
Bradley points out, “We have groups that come in every morning as early as 7:00 a.m. to make sandwiches. So we’re looking for people still to come in to make sandwiches in the morning and then we do some baking in the afternoon, as we bake almost four thousand home-made snacks that go in the lunches as well every week.”
It’s the volunteers though that Bradley says make all the difference to not only them but the entire community.
“Looking at our School Lunch program, it’s gone up over 30 per cent from when we came in and assumed the assets and the responsibilities that Loaves and Fishes did so well over the past 25 years,” stated Bradley. “The School Lunch program went from 285 and we’re now as high as 385 a day with the lunches.”
“The dinners, they’ve gone up a little bit as well” explained Bradley. “We’re averaging about 400 people every week that come to our dinners during the week.”
Overall, Bradley admits they have seen an increase in the amount of people needing and using their services.
“Volunteers are at the heart of it,” points out Bradley. “This year we’ve had 4,687 volunteers come through our doors already this calendar year, so we cannot do the work that we do without both the financial support and the many, many hours that people do here at the Mustard Seed.”
With their ‘Eight Days of Christmas’ campaign running from December 18-25 inclusive, Bradley says it’s an excellent opportunity to become an ‘Angel of Hope’ and get involved with one of the numerous volunteer opportunities available at the Mustard Seed.
“We have a lot of family-friendly activities, like we’re showing Christmas movies every day, one day we’re doing gingerbread house making, another day we’re doing Christmas Karaoke,” says Bradley. “So there’s different opportunities for volunteers to come and kind of do out of the ordinary stuff. Often throughout the year you can come and do prep in our kitchen and make lunches for kids but during Christmas, you can come in and make giant snowflakes and watch a Christmas movie.”
For more information on the Mustard Seed, their programs and ‘Angel of Hope’ volunteer opportunities, visit their website at www.theseed.ca.
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