Meals and blankets for homeless people, helping low-income kids go to camp, support for refugees—these are some of the ways the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) Canada Spirit of MDS Fund helped Canadian congregations and organizations serve their communities.
Altogether, $117,900 has been granted to 26 groups since last September through the fund, which exists to help local people address practical needs in their communities.
Brother John Frampton at Toronto’s St. Francis Table, a soup kitchen supported by Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, recalls a woman dealing with addictions who said it is a place where “everyone can be somebody, even if they ain’t nobody.”
“Thank you for helping make that possible,” Frampton says.
At Urban Promise, an inner-city ministry in Toronto also supported by Toronto Chinese Mennonite Church, the grant was used to provide free camp to children living in low-income housing and to hire youth in the neighbourhood to lead the camps.
“With the funds we received from MDS, we were able to provide crafts, small outings and a consistent camp for children,” says Christine Lee, adding the camp is a place where “children come and experience the love of God.”
The Langley Vineyard Church in British Columbia operates a ministry serving homeless people that is also supported by Langley Mennonite Fellowship.
When the church ran out of blankets last fall, with the cold winter season around the corner, “MDS stepped in to fill the void,” says Walter Paetkau, chair of the Langley Mennonite Fellowship Peace and Social Concerns Committee.
The grant from the Spirit of MDS Fund was used to buy 500 blankets, he says, telling the story of Alex, who came to the church “shivering and cold.” Alex, he says, “was very thankful for a warm cup of coffee, a hot meal, some gloves and a dry blanket that he could easily carry around.”
The soup kitchen in Lethbridge, Alta., received a grant.
“The much-appreciated donation assisted us with operational costs related to gathering food required to make meals as well as preparation,” says executive director Bill Ginther.
The organization, which provides up to 7,500 meals a month, received the support through Coaldale Mennonite Church.
“A lot of our members contribute to the soup kitchen individually,” says Peter Janzen, a deacon at Coaldale Mennonite Church. “The donation MDS Canada provided was very meaningful, not only to them but to our congregation as well.”
Global Gathering Place in Saskatoon, which supports refugees and newcomers, received its grant through Mount Royal Mennonite Church in that city. It used the funds for groceries, bus passes, diapers, prescriptions and emergency housing, among other things.
The Spirit of MDS Fund was started in the spring of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic, when MDS Canada, unable to do its regular service at the time, decided to provide help to congregations assisting people in their communities impacted by COVID-19. Since then, the fund has been offered three times, with a total of $324,800 granted.
The fund is no longer linked to the pandemic, but has become part of MDS Canada’s ongoing program.
For Ross Penner, director of Canadian operations, the fund is a way for MDS Canada “to recognize a lot of really good hands-on work [that] is happening in Canada through congregations. Through it, we can come alongside these churches and support their members as they volunteer to help people in their communities.”
Grants of up to $5,000 are available to Canadian churches. For more information visit mds.org/spirit-of-mds-fund.