Ban­quet at­ten­dees hear how River­side Mis­sion is in­spir­ing growth in its res­i­dents

Moose Jaw - - News - Matthew Gourlie -- Moose Jaw Ex­press

“Have you ever been in a spot where you didn’t know where to go and you didn’t know what to do and you just felt hope­less?”

When Jeff My­ers was at the low­est point in his life, he found a place where he could start to re­build his life. When My­ers first went to River­side Mis­sion three years ago, he was strug­gling with his men­tal health and un­sure of where to turn. He would go on to grad­u­ate from River­side’s MATH (Mixed Adult Tran­si­tional Hous­ing) pro­gram. He now works in the kitchen at River­side as a cook and is go­ing to at­tend Bri­er­crest Col­lege and Sem­i­nary to con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion. “The River­side Mis­sion has changed me. I came in there and I wasn’t a very nice per­son. I wasn’t a very happy per­son,” My­ers said. “To­day I can tell you I’m elated. I get up ev­ery day and I thank the Lord for the blue sky. I thank the Lord for the flow­ers, the birds, you name it. We should all be thank­ful for what we have. We should all look out for the lit­tle one. There are peo­ple out there ev­ery day, that you meet, that may need your help.”

My­ers shared his story with the at­ten­dees at the River­side Mis­sion’s Har­vest Ban­quet fundraiser and said his life has trans­formed since he first walked through the doors at the Mis­sion.

“So many things have hap­pened. Je­sus Christ is in my life. I am a strong, bold man. I can tell you this: I wouldn’t be stand­ing up here talk­ing to you two years ago. The River­side Mis­sion has done so much for me and that’s why I have so much pas­sion for it,” My­ers said.

When he needed a place to stay and the com­fort of know­ing where his next meal would come from, and that there would be a warm bed at the end of the night -- the River­side Mis­sion was there. He ini­tially went to get his ba­sic needs met, but the Mis­sion has come to play a much larger role in his life.

“It all started out that way. It has kind of snow­balled into some­thing ab­so­lutely won­der­ful,” My­ers said. “The River­side Mis­sion just re­cently em­ployed me as the cook. So now I get to serve the Lord as I work ev­ery day. I get to see the smiles on the faces of the peo­ple when they come in when they re­ceive their meals. That’s the most en­joy­able part for me, right around five o’clock when I bring that meal out and there are so many smil­ing faces in times when there are prob­a­bly a lot of things go­ing on in their lives -- a lot of hard things.”

The River­side Mis­sion hosted its se­cond an­nual Har­vest Ban­quet at the Sports­man Cen­tre re­cently. The in­au­gu­ral event was a stand-alone din­ner that raised $16,000, but de­mand this year meant that they ex­panded to a se­cond night.

“The first year, we just had the one ban­quet and we al­most over-sold it. So that’s what prompted us to do the two nights,” said Ja­cob Od­die, chap­lain and sup­port su­per­vi­sor for the River­side Mis­sion. “We’re at the point where it was too much for one night, but not so it’s packed for both nights. I would say it’s a pretty happy medium right now.” Od­die said that ap­prox­i­mately 260 peo­ple at­tended over the two nights. How much was raised is still be­ing de­ter­mined.

While the event is a fundraiser, it goes beyond that. “It’s also a chance for Moose Jaw to come to­gether and part­ner with us,” Od­die said. “This is one big part­ner­ship. It’s not just about com­ing here and ‘please give us your money’ and here’s your meal. We want to build bonds with the com­mu­nity of Moose Jaw. Fight­ing poverty and fight­ing hunger can’t be done just by one group of peo­ple or one or­ga­ni­za­tion. It’s a com­mu­nity. This is the in­vi­ta­tion -- come part­ner with us.” River­side Mis­sion is a non-profit, Chris­tian hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion that looks to com­pas­sion­ately meet the needs of Moose Jaw’s less for­tu­nate. “While they have di­verse needs, poverty and hunger are those over-arch­ing themes,” Od­die said.

Both nights fea­tured tes­ti­mo­ni­als from vol­un­teers and peo­ple like My­ers who have used the Mis­sion’s ser­vices.

Nine-year-old El­iz­a­beth Sals­man has been vol­un­teer­ing at the River­side Mis­sion for a year and a half, af­ter be­ing in­spired by her mother who has been vol­un­teer­ing for two years.

“I do a lot of prep work, but my favourite part is when the doors open, and I get to greet peo­ple and get to serve them their cream and sugar. Then lunch be­gins, and I get to help serve most of the condi­ments be­cause I’m a lit­tle too short for the coun­ters,” Sals­man said draw­ing a laugh from the crowd. “I also learn a lot from the peo­ple who come through the doors -- both the vol­un­teers and the cus­tomers. I re­ally like the op­por­tu­nity to serve oth­ers and make life-long friends. It re­ally is a fun and mean­ing­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for me. The peo­ple are po­lite and kind to me.”

While Sals­man has learned a lot about the value of vol­un­teerism, she said she’s also learned about how im­por­tant a place like River­side can be for the city. “Places like River­side are so im­por­tant to our com­mu­nity to help those who need it, but might not know where or how,” Sals­man said. “I am speak­ing to­day to help the word of this amaz­ing group of peo­ple and what they do to in­spire peo­ple. Even as a young per­son, I want to in­spire oth­ers, in­clud­ing kids, that they can do any­thing to help -- big or small -- it all counts. They can make a dif­fer­ence.”

Scott El­ger, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of River­side Mis­sion, ad­dresses the crowd dur­ing their Har­vest Ban­quet. Matthew Gourlie photograph

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