Like all parishes, Good Shepherd Anglican Church in Edmonton has been wondering what it can do to reach out and help during the COVID-19 pandemic. As with many others, the answer has come through looking at what the church was already doing before the pandemic began. Rector, the Rev. Jordan Ware, says that before the pandemic, food security had already been a major concern in the community of Castle Downs, where Good Shepherd is located.
“We'd seen an increase in walk-in requests for food,” she says. “We're not a food bank depot, so the supplies we had on hand weren't sufficient to meet people's needs. So it was decided that as a parish Lenten discipline, we'd ask people to donate grocery gift cards that could be given to those who came in asking for help. Then we shut down (access to the church building) - no more walk-ins! So we had to think creatively about how to share what we had been given.”
Ware says that in order to connect with people who need the gift cards, the church has, for the most part, been leveraging connections with other community partners, including but not limited to other Anglican clergy. Some parishioners have asked for help for their neighbours or friends. The parish is working to get an application on its website to see if that will draw out additional communities in need.
Even though the system is still evolving, Good Shepherd had already given away well over $1,000 by the end of April, to youth receiving care packages from Trinity Youth Project, shoppers at All Saints’ Cathedral’s Manna Market, to its own parishioners, and to clergy throughout the diocese to distribute to their communities.
Most donations have come from Good Shepherd parishioners, as well as what Ware describes as a “very generous donation” from the Castle Downs Recreation Society. Good Shepherd has also sent out requests on Twitter to see if others would like to donate to the cause.
Of the response, she says, “Pretty much what I'm hearing is gratitude. Gratitude from the recipients, gratitude from the givers who wanted to do something but weren't sure what (we weren't sure this was the right thing to do either - but it's worked out!). It has been an incredible gift to be able to see a need and be able to meet it.”
The parish plans to carry on distributing the grocery cards “as long as the need remains and we are able to fill it.”
“I've honestly been overwhelmed by how much has been given,” says Ware. “It is such a joy for me to see generosity rise in a time when so many might be tempted to turn to selfishness and hoarding.”
If you'd like to contribute, visit goodshepanglican.org/donate and make a note that your donation is for grocery cards. Alternatively, cards can be mailed to 15495 Castle Downs Rd NW in Edmonton, postal code T5X 4A8.