Eddy Rempel is the newly appointed executive director of Mennonite Community Services of Southern Ontario (MCS) based in Aylmer, Ont., replacing the retiring Abe Harms, who worked for the organization for 22 years.
Rempel, who has spent most of his life in Aylmer, has been a dedicated supporter of MCS, distinguishing himself as an avid networker and connector of individuals and groups. He has served as MCS’s board chair, acted as a consultant, and spoke on behalf of the organization at various community events.
He obtained a bachelor of religious studies degree from Steinbach (Man.) Bible College, a bachelor of mathematics degree from the University of Waterloo, Ont., and a master of science degree in statistics from McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont. He is completing a master of sociology degree at Western University, London, Ont., focusing on immigration to rural Canada.
Rempel considers it a great privilege to join the work of inviting newcomers into the community.
For his part, Harms considers his time at MCS a rich and rewarding experience.
Over the years, he witnessed many changes. The clientele has changed but the needs are the same. From the 17 Low German-speaking families that came in 1977, there are now families from 10 different countries receiving help, although the majority are still Low German-speaking families from Latin America.
Harms says, "Attitudes have changed immensely over the years. Where once the husbands did not want their wives going to school, today that is not the case."
The opening of a Low German-speaking radio station in May 2003 was a milestone for Harms.
Another highlight was the combining of all services under one umbrella. Previously, the thrift store, Aylmer Mennonite Community Store, operated under its own local board, and all other programs operated under Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Ontario at the MCC Aylmer Resource Centre. In 2008, both of these entities were merged and renamed MCS under one corporation and one local board.
One of many changes during the current pandemic was the cancellation of office and home visits, forcing families without computers or internet access to use cell phones and WhatsApp. The Thrift Store closed when the province issued lockdowns. Fundraisers were suspended for two seasons. The building was closed to the public during the stay-at-home order. Most staff worked from home, and the front desk staff answered and directed calls to the right service.
MCS settlement services continue to aid newcomers transitioning into life in Canada, providing family support, interpretation help, school involvement, and assistance with accessing legal help regarding their status in Canada. It also disseminates information for newcomers, covering topics such as how to apply for Social Insurance Numbers and health cards; the rights and responsibilities of citizenship; and landlord and tenant issues. The Family Education Support Program Aylmer offers classes for women and children, family support for medical appointments, and prenatal and postnatal support.