The Church of the Apostles Helper Bees Program has partnered with Your Downtown Guelph Friends to deliver innovative and much-needed outreach programs to Guelph. The partnership takes advantage of both groups’ strengths to deliver 200 meals a week and run outreach programs for the community.
“The church was preparing food for emergency food providers throughout the pandemic, but wanted a way to be more impactful in the community,” said Helper Bees Coordinator John Dennis. “Your Downtown Guelph Friends was a natural fit to partner with as they are working on the streets of Guelph and were looking to expand their programs. The church provided an inspected kitchen, professional accounting services, and experience with governance.”
Your Downtown Guelph Friends is a non-incorporated group that began when some friends from high school decided to make sandwiches and distribute them downtown. Led by Kate Nixon, the volunteer group has impacted some of Guelph’s most vulnerable for the past three years. They set tables up on the corner of Wyndham and Woolwich Streets twice a week and distribute meals, clothing, and hygiene products. They often see more than 100 visitors per day. All are greeted with a smile, a kind word, and a nutritious meal. Volunteer Jamie Gibson added, “Your Downtown Guelph Friends is known throughout our community as a rock of stability whose members can be relied upon to provide for and treat those in need with dignity. My experience volunteering here has grounded me spiritually and cut through the alienation of contemporary life.”
To formalize the partnership, a committee was formed with members from both the church and Your Downtown Guelph Friends to set the direction of the program. Helper Bees Coordinator John Dennis relates: “The committee is a young, diverse group of volunteers made up of community members and the congregation. Together, we have great ideas about expanding the outreach programs and impacting our community.”
The new partners have run a number of successful outreach programs since joining together. The partnership began with Your Downtown Guelph Friends distributing 100 blankets to guests on Fridays. In May, they ran a book sale for literacy programs in Provincial Correctional Centres that raised $1,500, and donated 500 books to the programs. They are currently working with the Guelph Food Bank to distribute grocery bags to guests of Your Downtown Guelph Friends each week. They ran a free concert series in the church gardens with local musicians this summer.
They are also in the planning stages of bringing back the popular Living Better on Less program in the fall. This free series of courses provides participants with information about how to reduce their environmental impact and live thoughtfully on a limited budget.
Kate Nixon tells us: “In the fight against poverty, inequity, marginalization and community hardship we are truly the strongest together. Your Downtown Guelph Friends and The Helper Bees are working together to tackle this crisis on the very streets in Guelph. We cannot do it alone. We are community-based and we need the support of you, our neighbours, to help us. Every mouth fed, every person who receives support and a smile, every material distributed is a small victory.”