It would be hard to imagine any charitable organization in Sarnia-Lambton that has more of an impact on the overall quality of residents who rely on the services underscoring the mission of the Inn of the Good Shepherd, founded in 1981 by a group of people connected with St. John’s Anglican Church, then a congregation located in the south-end of the city.
Nearly four decades later, with the Inn having developed a strong network of supporters, the organization now helps feed an average of 1,800 individuals who face food insecurity.
About 700 of those are children, individuals who are among the most vulnerable in our community.
What that need translates into on a practical basis is some 40,000 pounds of food, no small challenge for any one organization.
Thankfully, the Inn has many supporters, among them various service groups, corporations, schools, and individuals who come together to prepare and serve meals through the Inn’s soup kitchen.
Clients are able to be fed in a brightly lit and roomy dining hall as they enjoy some “social” nourishment along with a hot meal and interaction with others.
Indeed, for many the soup kitchen is likely to be their only hot meal of the day—and for too many, their only meal.
Of course, with the Inn providing food packages that contain both staples and fresh foods, a key question is how does the “bank” become replenished?
The answer to that is simple: it takes an entire community, working throughout the year to manage the flow of donations to make the eradication of hunger (at least one family at a time) possible.
Two seasonal food drives—at Christmas and Thanksgiving—plus the ever-popular CANstruction event that takes place in springtime at the Lambton Mall, along with the help of students from St. Patrick’s Catholic High School who take part in the community’s Cyclone Aid, are part of what makes the work of the Inn all possible.
There are also programs that seek to give a helping hand where the need is most urgent, including rent and utility assistance, a shelter (the Good Shepherd’s Lodge), and Genesis, a free clothing and household items store where clients are able to equip their place of residence with many essentials.
As is the case with other services provided through the Inn, the generosity of the community is essential to the success of Genesis.
One of the most exciting services the Inn provides is one that has been operating for several years now.
Through the Mobile Market program, food bank clients are able to receive fresh garden produce on a more frequent basis than their regular food bank visit.
A combination of donations from local gardens and a donation program organized with local farmers and greenhouse growers helps address the issue of people living in poverty not getting the healthy food they need to succeeded in other areas of their life.
During the growing and harvest seasons, the typical mobile market will leave a variety of up to 12 different vegetables, including potatoes, corn, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beans, tomatoes, squash peppers, cucumbers, carrots and more.
Information on the Mobile Market Garden locations and schedule can be found on the Inn’s website (www.theinnsarnia.ca).
Back to School
Given that young students are among the most vulnerable in our community, the Inn’s program that sees more than 500 kits prepared to provide kids with things that they need for their first day back to school is a particularly helpful initiative.
In the kits, which are specific to grades, children receive supplies such as pens, markers, rulers, calculators, math sets, binders, scissors and more. The items are placed in a new backpack along with a few snacks and drink boxes.
For the Inn’s clients, the holidays can bring on added stress, which is one reason there are many different programs designed to help.
Unfortunately, the Inn is “the family” for too many, which makes initiatives like Adopt-a-Family, a Singles Dinner, the Inn out of the Cold Family Dinner (hosted each year by the Dante Club), and a Children’s Christmas Party, so important for the overall health of the community.
What about you?
If you’re looking for a way to help those in our community who are less fortunate, reach out to the Inn of the Good Shepherd.
There is no shortage of ideas to begin your own “good deed” as the community we call home beckons.
This article first appeared in the June/July issue of Lambton Shield magazine.