Page 16 - Presbyterian Connection
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By R. Aubrey Hawton, Elder,
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Coldwater, Ont.
St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church is a small congregation with an aver- age worship attendance of 30 to 35 in the charming village of Coldwater, Ont., about 90 minutes north of To- ronto. While the congregation may be small, it has a huge presence in the community.
For over 20 years, the congrega- tion has worked with the Best Life- style Residence, a home for about 30 adults who have limited incomes and need significant support daily. Church volunteers have hosted weekly BINGO games, colouring activities and craft events for the residents. An annual summer BBQ
FALL 2021
Creating a Caring Closet in Coldwater
  is also held, along with a Christmas party at which each resident is given a gift purchased by a member of St. Andrew’s.
In 2019, two large, raised garden boxes were built and donated, al- lowing the residents to grow some much-appreciated fresh produce.
The free Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving dinners we hosted in pre-Covid times were always well at- tended by community members. The 2020 Christmas dinner provided free delivery of the full meals to over 200 community members, thanks to the assistance of the local Lions’ Club.
About four years ago, the Inreach- Outreach Team at St. Andrew’s met to consider further outreach oppor- tunities. Michael Snively, one of the Inreach-Outreach Team members, floated the idea of setting up a “cloth- ing bank,” similar to a food bank, in one of the unused rooms in the base- ment of St. Andrew’s. The rest, as they say, is history!
The idea was shared with the con- gregation and with the neighbouring Coldwater-Eady United Church Pas- toral Charge and St. George Fairval- ley Anglican Church, both of whom
had worked with St. Andrew’s in our previous sponsorship of a Syrian refugee family.
Within a week, thousands of items of used and new clothing and ac- cessories had been donated. Volun- teers purchased shelving units and clothing racks, and some were even donated by their owners. Finally, a name was selected for this new min- istry: The Caring Closet.
Congregational volunteers staffed The Caring Closet for the eight hours each week that it was open. Word-of- mouth, print and online advertising spread the news. Soon, customers were arriving on a daily basis, and a decision was made to add additional hours to our schedule. Community volunteers stepped up to assist with staffing The Caring Closet.
And then, COVID-19 happened, prompting several shutdowns and restarts over the past year and a half. In late June 2021, The Caring Closet was able to reopen permanently (we hope!). All of our volunteers have returned, the community has contin- ued to provide thousands of donated items, and the customers are back. Online advertising, as well as lots of
great word-of-mouth recommenda- tions, have brought us customers from up to a one-hour drive from Coldwater. During an average 14- hour week of open hours, we often see 50 to 75 people, many of whom have had their incomes adversely af- fected by the pandemic.
In addition to our walk-in custom- ers, The Caring Closet has been able to provide clothing to the Best Life- style Residence in Coldwater; the Bayview Retirement Home in nearby Waubaushene; Youth Haven, an or- ganization working with vulnerable
youth in Barrie; La Maison Rose- wood Shelter, an emergency shelter in Midland that provides support to abused and homeless women and their children; Uplifting Blessing Bags in Orillia; The Lighthouse homeless shelter in Orillia; and to the PCC’s own Evangel Hall Mission in Toronto; as well as Kenora Fellowship Centre in Kenora, Ont.
If you ever find yourself fortunate enough to be in the beautiful Cold- water area, drop by St. Andrew’s and The Caring Closet. We’d love to see you!
    Communion in Neighbourhood
By Ty Ragan, Community Engagement Specialist, Knox Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Alta.
There’s a bustle of activity at the Out- door Cafe that’s been set up on the lawn at Knox Presbyterian Church in Calgary, Alta., as the vegetarian and Halal chicken hot dogs take their shifts sizzling on the grill. I wonder, could this have been what it was like in the Upper Room—family, friends and neighbours sharing food and conversation with Jesus?
The road to making a functional and welcoming outdoor space at our church began through partner- ships within our community. Our neighbours and students from lo- cal post-secondary schools, Mount Royal University, University of Cal- gary and Bow Valley College, joined together to lend their support and help create a space for all to share at the table and build connection, which is something that has become even more important since the pandemic began.
A Neighbour Grant from the Cal-
   gary Foundation provided the capi- tal, and partnerships were formed with donors and Youth Central. This allowed us to create space for com- munity volunteers to share their gifts of gardening, art and carpentry, and for new Canadian youth (Youth Cen- tral & Immigrant Services Canada) and church youth to connect and build together. Each piece of Knox’s outdoor community space is culti- vated with connection, collaboration and neighbours. It is the community working to support one another.
In this outdoor space, you will find a take-as-you-need herb garden, with beautiful plants (bellflowers, day lilies, archangel, bleeding hearts and monkshood) that the volunteer gardener describes as a “liturgical garden” of Jacob’s Ladder. A blue
planter in the front will soon hold white and blue plants for the St. An- drew’s cross and a unique rose bush signifying hope for humanity. There’s also an area for hopscotch, sidewalk chalk, a rock garden, a beautiful mu- ral, picnic tables where neighbours can spend time talking while sharing a game of checkers or Tic-Tac-Toe, plus benches to rest or meet up at (a high premium in urban areas). You can borrow a book from our all-ages Little Free Library or take some food from one of the free pantries that have grown in our community.
Knox Calgary has always been about radically inclusive welcome, living out that which was seen in the life of Jesus. Our outdoor space, our relational hub, are pieces of the ministry a community within com-
munities has been called into. To grow a little hope, a little love, so that “welcome,” that space of radical in- clusion, can become a space many know they can enter and belong to— much like the table Jesus set in that Upper Room so long ago that we rep- licate, well beyond Sunday mornings, as our own act of hope and love.
This is the journey I am blessed to be called into at Knox Presbyterian Church, and what a fun time it has been.

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