What if it was you?

Valentines Day Week – just passed. Kudos to all of our volunteer outreach workers in all capacities: street outreach, drop in, office drop in, prayer partners, donors, those who cook for our event dinners, the ones that donate sleeping bags and all kinds of other goodies that we use as tools to make connections with those who live and breathe on the streets of our city.

Sometimes, just sometimes, our street outreach volunteers might walk their routes in minus 30 degrees, and come back feeling somewhat disappointed because on this cold night, they only saw a couple of street friends. Then the thoughts come, “I wonder if I am making all that much difference anyhow. It doesn’t feel like it tonight at least.”

Stop. Pause.

What if it was you?

You on the streets, maybe even on that one cold night when no one much pays you any attention really, and you feel invisible, forgotten, neglected, and abandoned. Then the recurring thoughts from your past come: thoughts of ‘no good’, you’ll never amount to anything, you are not really worth the effort…

Then an outreach worker shows up with a sandwich, a juice box, but more importantly, a smile, an inquiry about your week, a reminder of something that you said last week or time when you last connected, and some random (or planned) word of encouragement that really lifted your spirits…

How would that make you feel?

For the one’s and two’s and groups on the streets, and the teams of two or three volunteers walking and watching-  add these together and you have two: one, a great deal of difference in someone(s) life; and two, ‘everything’ (and all that entails) to our those who call the streets their home.

A small thing for us maybe, but what if it was ‘you?’ I know it would mean a lot to me.

Ken MacLaren

Danielle’s Story: Episode 5 – I found OIM (or OIM found me)

“Danielle’s Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!

 

 

It was about this time I met up with an Ottawa Innercity Ministries street outreach team. It was rainy and cold and they gave me food and I was one of the first people at the art program that just started up. I was treated with respect, and it felt like I was stepping out of the community of drugs, violence and gangs. OIM gave me food, friendship and all the things I had ever longed for.
I began to volunteer with them, and soon started in the Work Skills program. I moved out of the shelter, and finally left the street community.
I found Christians like me, who knew forgiveness, love and patience, and who accepted me for who I am. This was a profound experience for me. It wasn’t too long after that I became a barista at a coffee shop and then enrolled at Algonquin college for animation.

 

Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone.

Why not let them know that they are NOT alone?

Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month?

Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

He fought like a soldier

Every Tuesday for the last several years, you could always count on Marcel to greet you at the drop-in. Walking in first thing in the morning (with a Tim Horton’s cup in hand, of course), he would make his way to his regular table, but not without first greeting each staff member and volunteer.

He had a special connection with two of our volunteers: Ken and Kirk, who are both veterans. You see, Marcel was a proud veteran himself – having served in the Canadian military for several years. But like so many other veterans, after leaving the military he felt lost. He struggled with alcoholism for years, which eventually led him to the streets. But Marcel was a strong man, who persevered. He fought to get off the alcohol and to reclaim his life. He got sober and got a small apartment. But even after surviving homelessness, his life was not easy. He struggled daily with depression and PTSD. But he fought. He fought like a soldier.

This Tuesday at the drop-in, Marcel did not show up to greet us. One of his friends brought us the news that he had died over the weekend due to a heart condition. There were tears shed, as friends comforted each other.

So this Remembrance Day, the OIM community is remembering Marcel. We remember his courage and his resilience.

We thank him for his service.

And we will miss him dearly.

Marcel 3

Marcel at the drop-in.

 

Kindness

A few months ago, a new person walked through the doors of the drop-in.

He was friendly but seemed very cautious. He asked a lot of questions….as if he wasn’t sure if he could trust what we were up to. So I showed him around and tried to give him some answers. I offered him coffee and invited him to sit with some others who were playing cards.

About an hour later, he came to find me again. His demeanor had completely changed – he looked happy and excited.

“Did you see those women washing feet? I can’t believe that!” (He was referring to our foot care volunteers, who wash and care for the feet of our street friends.)

He said he wasn’t used to seeing this level of kindness –just a few days before he had been released after spending several years in jail. Jail was rough, and kindness was rare. He said he couldn’t believe the kindness of the volunteers at the drop-in.

The very next week, my new friend brought in 3 handmade dream catchers – one for me and one for each of the foot care volunteers. He said he wanted to extend kindness back to us.

Since then, my new friend has attended drop-in every week. He always arrives with a smile and offers to lend a helping hand.

dreamcatcher

Here is a photo of the dream catcher he made me. A reminder to me of how meaningful kindness can be.

 

A Volunteer’s Reflection

Lots of people tell me that they think I’m doing so much when they hear that I do street outreach with OIM. I go out each week to hand out sandwiches, socks and a kind word hoping to share the love of God and encourage people.

bicycle-against-wall-1563544But yesterday I ran into Sue who OIM has been helping for many years. Many people dismiss Sue without knowing how sweet she really is.  Sue knows that I ride my bike all winter and the first thing she asked me was whether I had ridden my bike yesterday.  When I said “Yes”, she immediately took my hand and began to pray for me:

“Dear heavenly Father, please protect Rick with your love and mercy and keep him safe”.

In that moment, Sue gave me more than I had ever given her and she changed ME.

 

By Rick – Rick is an OIM outreach and drop-in volunteer who has been volunteering for several years. 

 

Volunteering at Art Group

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Pillowcase dress

After almost two years doing foot-care at OIM’s Tuesday drop in, I recently switched to Monday evenings with the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program. As difficult as it was to leave my Tuesday friends, I soon came to know the young people who attend art group Monday nights.  Not only do I have the privilege to get to know these young men and women, but as volunteers, we are responsible for mentoring, encouraging,  and helping them set goals in life.  Being witness to such raw, original, artistic talent is awe inspiring.  An added bonus for me is that I get my “baby fix” with two beautiful baby boys who come with their parents!

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Batman mask

Since discovering a sewing machine, several young people have come forward with sewing ideas and designs of their own.  The very first sewers were several of the young men who transformed long pants into board shorts.  Now there is a line-up for the machine with more people, sewing projects such as rock collecting bags, coat alterations, little girls dresses, fur hats, baby clothes, etc.

The biggest project to date has been a leather Batman mask, which started out as a $5 leather skirt from Value Village.   It was labour intensive but it was completed in time to be worn for Halloween.  To work alongside these young people, is an experience I cherish.  To see the smiles and sense their feeling of accomplishment in creating and completing these projects makes my heart smile so big it hurts.

I LOVE what I get to do with OIM 🙂 <3

– By Debby, Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program volunteer 

 

An Offering

 

RoseI met Rose about 3 years ago when I was doing outreach. What I noticed about her right away (and what I think everyone notices about her) was her energetic and bubbly personality. Her big smile and loud laugh are contagious!

But her life hasn’t been all smiles….she had a rough life that led her to homelessness and addiction. But despite this, she has never lost her optimism for life.

She started coming to our drop-in out of a need for community and support. Over the years, she has made positive changes in her life, including securing a safe apartment and becoming sober. But the more you get to know Rose, the more you see that helping people is central to her life. Even though she is on social assistance and does not have much money, she will always give to those in need. She has a heart for helping youth and often befriends them on the street and refers them to resources that can help them.

When she heard about out Passion 4 Youth Fine Art Program, she wanted to help. We mentioned that we could use help preparing food, so she offered her baking skills. Twice each week, Rose bakes homemade desserts and brings them to our art program. She loves to make sweets that she knows will be a treat for the youth.

We feel blessed to know Rose and we are so thankful for her offering.

 

 

If you want to help cook for the art program, please contact Moira at moira_oim@rogers.com or Dana at dana_oim@rogers.com 

 

 

A Chance Meeting

When I meet a youth on outreach for the first time, I am always aware that it may be the only time I ever see them.

The lives of street-engaged youth can be so insecure and unpredictable that our paths may never cross again. Knowing this, I try my best to make some sort of connection and pray that I have helped the youth in some way.

I met Jasmine in the summer of 2014. She was standing on bank street and told me she was staying in a shelter after becoming homeless after fleeing an abusive relationship. We talked for a little, and then I went on with my route. Months passed and I didn’t see her again. I wondered about her…was she still at the shelter? Had she returned to her abusive partner?

Then, about 7 months later I received this text:

final text

 

Since sending me this text, Jasmine has become a member of the Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program. She is there every week and always has a bright smile on her face.

I took a picture of this text and saved it so that if I every wonder if these brief outreach meetings are meaningful, I know the answer.

Small Things With Great Love

Mother Theresa is quoted as having once said, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” This is precisely what describes one couple who come regularly to our drop-in.

Betty and Alex started coming to the drop-in in the fall of last year. It was clear from the start that they were a little shy and uncomfortable, unsure about what goes on at our drop-in. They spent a lot of time in the hallway, next to the dining room, unsure of themselves and their unfamiliar surroundings. After speaking with them, I learned a little of their story:  Alex is on disability and they get by on Betty’s meager earnings cleaning homes. Their ability to stay afloat was precarious and they were both at great risk of becoming homeless. They knew they had to start relying more heavily on social services as well as their local food bank if they were to avoid eviction. They had arrived, as many new drop-in people do, in crisis.

We were able to provide what we could that day: breakfast, a hot lunch, sandwiches, dessert and a couple of bags of groceries as we always do each and every week. Although this is a common service, one that we have available to anyone who asks each and every week, to Betty and Alex, this was a miracle! Through tears both Alex and Betty thanked us. They were so grateful and went away with full bellies and hearts full of thanks.

This was the very least we could do.

And wouldn’t you know it? Betty and Alex returned week after week, full of joy and gratitude as they gathered their strength and made the most of the resources they had around them. Soon, they were able to move from a cramped bachelor apartment to a 1-bedroom. “We have so much more space!” Betty beamed.

And, it appeared, a desire to pay it forward.

As they received more blessings from OIM, they began blessing the community therein. Most weeks, they would gather older housewares and pick up gently used clothing from their neighbours and donate them to our clothing room. They do this with gratitude and thanks despite the little they have themselves. They are also eager to let OIM know how very thankful they are for the service we provide, offering words of encouragement to staff and volunteers by way of cards of thanks and, recently, a box of chocolate for the staff (my favourite was the butter cream chocolate – yum :)).

rock art gift

And just a few weeks ago, Alex painted this small stone with tulips on it for me. He created this with the few spare art supplies that we were able to offer him. Art, as Betty explained to us, is a valuable, therapeutic tool for Alex’s mental health and wellness. And in keeping with Alex’s generous spirit, he used the paint supplies we gave him to bless us in return.

A small gesture, delivered with great love. What a blessing!

Jelica

Managing Director

The Tale of Two Piano Movers

HI – My name is Dr. Greg Payne. I help folks at the Ottawa Innercity Ministries Drop-In center. This story I am about to tell gives you a glimpse of what I experience serving at the drop-in and how insightful and incredibly impactful it can be!

This story unfolded in a manner of 45 minutes.

The first guy came in the drop-in to get his chiropractic adjustment for his intractable lower back pain. You see, he was a piano mover 20 years ago. On one particular job, his partner agreed to lift on the count of 2 but instead waited an extra second and lifted on the count of three. This man felt a “pop” and “tear” in his lower back and was in considerable and immediate pain. He was a casual laborer and as such had limited benefits to assist in his recuperation (which was mainly pain medication and physical therapy). His symptoms eventually decreased but the problem really never left. He found intermittent work (over the following year) but his back pain prevented him for any gainful employment. This put such a financial strain on his family that his wife and child left him for a more secure future. His remedy you see for the pain at this point was more alcohol and drug use. Thankfully, he is starting to find some healing in the chiropractic care at the drop-in.

The second man was 20-30 years his junior. He came in to the drop-in carried by friends stooped in half with acute back pain 30 minutes later. He had just suffered the same injury the first man received all those years ago! Same type M.O., young family, laborer etc. After a history and examination I adjusted him. Miraculously, he rose off the table standing straight! He was still tender but the healing seemed active and present! With tears he thanked me and was able to walk out of the walk-in – praise God.

One thinks – or wonders, what if the first guy had an adjustment instead? Would he still be with his family or his family still with him? The consequences of choice are absolutely staggering put into context!  My purpose in life is to better people’s health through spinal reconstructive work so that people can build an awesome legacy!

If you would like some help on how to stretch and strengthen your back just click here and I’ll get that to you! 6 Common Things to Strengthen Your Lower Back

Blessings!

Dr. Greg Payne