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