The toy drive–parish continues association’s outreach to the north

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Young people at the LivingRoom—a drop-in ministry in the community of Schumacher, just outside of Timmins—sort toys sent to Moosonee Diocese from St. Michael’s and St. Gabriel’s in Hamilton. Photo: Sheila Van Zandwyk

by Sheila Van Zandwyk

For nearly 40 years the Anglican Business and Professional Women’s Association (ABPW) of Hamilton had a relationship with Moosonee Diocese, sending a bale of toys to them every Christmas. This started through an address given to the ABPW by then Bishop Neville Clark in the early 70s.

The Association learned of the many struggles this northern diocese dealt with as they ministered to their parishes and communities. Stirred into action, the group immediately gave a bursary to the Bishop, to be used at his discretion.

The annual toy drive was the next project undertaken.

In 2015 the ABPW decided their group had run its course after 69 years and much fun, fellowship and outreach.

The members were sorry that the toy drive for Moosonee would no longer happen. As I was their Chaplain, I suggested perhaps my Parish of St. Michael’s and St. Gabriel’s would be interested in continuing this wonderful outreach, so I promised to present the idea to my Outreach Committee.

St. Michael’s had a relationship with ABPW for many years, as the Reverend David Luxton was Chaplain from 1962-68 while he was Rector of St. Michael’s, I became Chaplain in 2012 and a number of our parishioners have been long time members of the Association.

So this past Christmas the Outreach Committee asked our parish to help with the toy drive for Moosonee, and the response was overwhelming! We sent a pallet (4 feet by 4 feet and 6 feet high) full of toys, as well as a cheque for over $1,200 for them to buy gift cards and food vouchers as needed.

The Venerable Deborah Lonergan-Freake, Archdeacon of Moosonee, was our contact person. She suggested the toys could be sent to The LivingRoom—a drop-in ministry in the community of Schumacher, just outside of Timmins.

The LivingRoom—a new ministry initiative—is already being well-used by children in an after school program, young mothers and seniors looking to make some connections, and teens who come to a drop-in session in the evening.

The toys were an overwhelming surprise for the children who were hoping for a bit of a pizza party the week before Christmas, and instead walked in to see tables filled with toys for them to choose from. The money provided gift cards for the teens and supplied some nutritious snacks for the afterschool program.

In a wonderful letter, the Archdeacon spoke of the many challenges of ministry in the north, including the long distances which priests travel and the economic struggles of life.

At St. Michael’s and St. Gabriel’s, we were so pleased to have been part of this long-standing wonderful outreach initiative by the Anglican Business and Professional Women’s Association of Hamilton, and to begin this relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Moosonee Diocese.

The Reverend Sheila Van Zandwyk is Rector of St. Michael’s Hamilton.