Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beacon(s) of Light: R&R Street Ministry

Every Tuesday night, a group of people meet in a parking lot in downtown Kitchener. The parking lot becomes a staging area, as 8-15 people descend upon a couple of large plastic bins, filling them with basic hygiene items such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap and shampoo.

As soon as the bins are ready to go, the people split up into groups and head out for their destinations. The first group starts walking down Duke St. toward Frederick. They'll stop to chat with a few rough sleepers as they travel to Mary's Place, a shelter for women and their families. Once they arrive, the team splits up with precision and immediately starts serving the guests of the shelter. A few serve hot dogs to a line of women and their children. Another person mixes and serves hot chocolate and hands out granola bars. More still, start handing out the hygiene items and small toys and treats for the kids.

This group is about fellowship. Though their job of service finishes as quickly as it starts, the rest of their time is spent talking, listening and offering words of hope.

At the same time, the other group heads to Kitchener's City Hall and meets up with clients who are eagerly waiting. Hot dogs distributed, brand new socks, some chat with clients new and old. Someone will stop by with news of a new job and others will lament on the tough housing market.

The team will move on, walking down King St. stopping every hundred metres or so, opening up the bins and handing out supplies to the mostly forgotten citizens of downtown Kitchener. An hour and a half later, the team arrives at the Charles Street Men's Hostel, their last stop for the night. On busy nights in the summer, the team will be out of hot dogs and can only offer the men granola bars and bottles of water. On cold winter nights, they try to convince everyone to have just one more.

The night can be sad, showing sleeping conditions that none of my blog readers would ever choose.

 But regardless of where they sleep or how tough life is, the friends they serve are always friendly and thankful and always, always, always offer a smile.

And when they're lucky, the team gets treated to a rousing song from one of their musically talented friends, whether it is polka or waltz from the accordion or a little bit of blues with the help of an acoustic guitar.

This R&R Street Ministry is one of the gems of Waterloo Region, a group of folks coming together to serve in the most basic way. Every Tuesday, desperately hot or bone-achingly freezing, holiday or not, these folks are out there showing a little love to the folks who need it most in Waterloo Region.

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