Monday night meals at The Salvation Army in Swift Current, Sask., create an unlikely community.
“We’ve got all kinds of people from the community, across age ranges, ethnicity, income brackets,” says Captain Michael Ramsay, who helped develop the program when he served as the church pastor in Swift Current. “Sometimes you have people sitting across the table, who have been living in the same community for 50 years, and that’s the first time they’ve actually carried on a conversation.”
Swift Current’s Monday night supper program has been running for two years. Some hear about it through word of mouth, but many find out about it through other Salvation Army programming.
“If I know someone who would benefit from the dinner, I invite them to it,” says Sylvia Thorburn, who works at the church as a transition support worker, assisting clients with everything from court appearances to housing. “I sit down with them and they’re my guests for the evening.
“They want to be a part of something,” adds Sylvia who is also the program volunteer coordinator. “For a lot of people who come, this community event is a family unit, a place that’s safe and comforting. That’s what this ministry is all about.”
Calvin Stricker, a long-time resident of the area, has been coming to the supper since it began.
“The food is awesome,” he says. “But more than that, it gets me out of the house. When you’re not working—right now I’m not—you kind of look for every avenue you can to get out.”
For Stricker, who does casual work such as mowing lawns and washing dishes, just getting by in Swift Current can be difficult. As well as coming for the weekly dinner, he shops at the Army’s thrift store and receives a hamper at Christmastime. Stricker is grateful for the meal, but comes mainly for the company.
“I know most of the people here and it makes me feel good,” he says. “If you have a bad day, you can talk to somebody.”
“I’ve met a lot of good friends here,” says Travis Mortensen
It’s a long walk for Travis Mortensen from his house to the corps—about 30 blocks—but for the Monday night dinner, it’s worth it.
“Right now I’m on a fixed income and, on days like today when I don’t have much food at home, it really helps out because, not only do I get to socialize with everybody, but I also get to eat,” he says.
“This supper provides an environment where people are able to break free of social constraints and build relationships,” says Captain Ramsay.
“For a lot of people, this is their place,” says Sylvia. “This is therapy for them.”
By Kristin Ostensen
Photos by Krisin Ostensen
Feature photo: Travis.
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