Providing lunch at the Bissell Centre in Edmonton

A group of community members from Beth Shalom has been providing Christmas Eve lunches at the Bissell Centre in Edmonton as part of the Inner City Pastoral Ministry since the 1990's. Over 200 bag lunches were provided this year.

by Netta Phillet 

(AJNews) – The Inner City Pastoral Ministry (ICPM) is an ecumenical Christian organization serving the people of Edmonton’s inner city. It began in 1978 and is now jointly sponsored by three denominations, and includes lunch served to anyone who wishes to come in for a meal, they do not have to attend the service. It takes place in the Bissell Centre so we refer to it that way for simplicity. Different churches take turns through the year, supplying the food and servers.

In the mid 1990’s we found out that the Sunday before Christmas was the most difficult to fill with volunteers, and the Jewish community stepped up. For the first few years we prepared everything at Beth Shalom, and then developed a different method, with individuals making sandwiches and baking at home. COVID put an end to that.

Participants often asked if we couldn’t do this more than once a year and were told to go ahead. A few years ago a member of Beth Israel began the Thanksgiving Sunday Bissell lunch, based mostly out of BI, but for both lunches there have always been volunteers from the entire Jewish community.

Thanks to the generosity of our community we handed out 200 bag lunches on December 25th. There were also Christmas dinners being served downtown; our food could be taken away and had items that could last several days.

Huge thanks to Cheryl & Wayne Shur for assembling and distributing the bags and donating the water. Tony Russell assisted. Thanks as well to Linda Hartum for delivering and donating fruit. Each lunch had a bottle of water (critical for those who spend a lot of time outdoors), a juice box, protein bar, chips, Babybel, a banana, an orange, and a tuna or chicken snack pack. These are relatively expensive and a real treat; the total cost was $7 each.

In the words of one volunteer, “Although we have donated to the Bissell Centre and Hope Mission for years this was actually my first experience of interacting with those who so desperately need these services…. the smiles and words of thanks were far more than enough and once back in my vehicle, I couldn’t hold back the tears.”

Next year, who knows? Perhaps we’ll be back to making sandwiches in Beth Shalom?

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