How the meal started and its first year (1998)
The seed for this ministry had been planted many tears ago and, like all seeds, no one ever knows exactly when it will grow and how wonderful it will become. This is how this story begins.
Pam Hiensch and Tia Moras had been spending time during their weekends making loaves of sandwiches that would be distributed to the hungry of Vancouver at Christ Church Cathedral on Georgia St. on Monday mornings. They both were grateful that they could help the hungry yet they had a yearning to do more. Near the beginning of 1998, Pam met with the Rev. Sarah Tweedale to share her desire to do more to feed the hungry. Within two days, unbeknownst to Pam, Tia also went to Sarah to share the same wish. Sarah showed Pam, and Tia, information that she had in an old folder regarding some preliminary work that coincidentally, Ed Hiensch had done years earlier on exactly this matter. The time had come for this seed, planted long ago to break through the ground of Richmond and begin basking in the light of its new day.
Pam told her husband Ed that the work he had done years ago had resurfaced with a new focus. Soon after Tia told her husband Roger about this opportunity and a steering committee of 12 people was created. Work began on determining the location, number of people, and amount of money that would be needed to launch this ministry.
The original steering committee consisted of Roy and Hilda Caruso, Jim Hannis, Ed and Pam Hiensch. Rosemary Jansen, Dianne Joyal, David Kimpton, Roger and Tia Moras, Charis Nathan, and Rev. Sarah Tweedale.
Mike Stuchbery, St. Alban’s intern and Esther Ho, from the Church of Emmanuel soon joined the committee.
The positions of Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer were filled and it was decided to serve the first meal on Sept. 22, 1998 at St. Alban’s Hall. Meals would be served during the school year and would not be offered during the summer months.
The number of volunteers needed each day the meal was offered was determined as follows.
1-2 people for shopping
4-6 people for cooking
2-3 people for greeting
5-6 people for hall set-up
4-5 people for serving
5-6 people for hall clean-up
6-8 people for washing the dishes and pots/pans
It was estimated that a total of between 27 to 35 people would be needed each week. To ensure that no one would “burn out” it was decided that approximately 60 volunteers would be needed over and above the 14 member steering committee.
The purpose of starting this ministry was to determine if there were hungry people in Richmond. There was no way of knowing if 200 people would show up on the first night or if nobody would, so preparations to feed 50 guests were made.
An annual budget was based on an average of 50 people per meal for the 42 Tuesdays at a cost per meal of $2.00 or a total of $4,200.00. St. Alban’s Church donated use of the kitchen and hall that included gas, electricity and heat.
Before the first meal could be offered a decision needed to be made whether or not to say Grace and pass a collection plate. With the goal of reaching the poor and hungry, it was decided not to ask for a donation. It people had no money for food for their stomachs, they shouldn’t feel obligated to pay for this meal. Grace was not said because it was decided that this would be a “no strings attached” offering and some people on the streets have been hurt by learning that God is not loving.
In addition to making a commitment financially supporting this ministry, the members of St. Alban’s decided that a new and more hygienic kitchen was needed. Members of the parish worked together and renovations were completed in time to present the first meal.
The members of the steering committee were also to serve as leaders for each of the task areas on Tuesday nights. There was also a fund raising coordinator and a promotions person.
A Volunteer Orientation meeting was held and all food handlers were given a Food Safe course that was donated by the trainer. Plans were also made for an annual Food Safe and Orientation meeting with volunteers.
The local Fire Marshall calculated the maximum capacity for the hall as 127 seated people. Two plans were put into place for when that number would be exceeded. First, the steering committee will not sit and eat with the guests and if required, second, the volunteers will not eat with guests and would eat in the adjacent hall lounge and in the kitchen itself.
A goal of increasing the number of guests over the year and 50 people on the last Tuesday of the first year was set. The first meal welcomed 37 guests and each subsequent Tuesday welcomed more people.
As the year progressed, the hall was decorated for meals served at Halloween, Christmas, and Easter. Shrove Tuesday was served along the Men’s Club and the last meal of each year was a bar-b-que. March also saw the steering committee organize, prepare and serve a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner that included entertainment.
Monthly steering committee meetings were held to keep this ministry organized and on track.
The first year saw approximately 2800 guests or an “average’ of 70 people per Tuesday was achieved at a cost of approximately $3.30 per meal. This included the cook’s salary and some miscellaneous non food needs such as necessary cooking and serving utensils. Originally it was thought that all positions would be filled by volunteers however it was soon apparent that the position of top cook needed a dedicated person therefore someone had to be paid to make this ongoing commitment. Ruth Inglis, daughter of St. Alban’s Rev. Bill Inglis, applied for and was awarded the job. This paid position added a cost of approximately $1.00 per meal. This first year costs rose to approximately $10,000.00.
Some of the money needed to pay for the first year was requested and received from Stewards in Action (SIA) for the first year. Part of the balance of the costs were donated by the Anglican Parishes of Richmond which were St. Anne’s, St. Edward’s and Emmanuel. The remainder was donated by the Parish of St. Alban’s.
The next five years (1999-2004)
What follows is a brief overview of the next 5 years of serving this meal.
Initially the goal of this ministry was to find out if there were hungry people in Richmond and then to feed them. Along with physical hunger, it was found that people also hungered for fellowship.
The second through sixth year saw the annual attendance go from approximately 3,800 to 4,400. This totals over 23,000 guests. Originally we considered the number of “meals” served. In fact, this is the number of people who attended. Many had second helpings and some took home perishable foods at the end of the evening. The average cost per person has been held between $2.25 and $2.50 over the years. The average cost per meal is much lower.
Many of these people attended a meal, and found good food and a welcoming place where they could meet people and feel like they belonged. We continue with our Halloween, Christmas, Shrove Tuesday, Easter Volunteer Appreciation and end of the year bar-b-que dinners. The hall has seen several decorations and entertainers. The kitchen has seen the same plates washed hundreds of times. The number of guests continues to rise.
The need for this ministry remains strong and so does the dedication of the volunteers.
Minutes of meetings have been kept and maybe one day in the future more time will be spent on adding details to this history of “The Community Meal at St. Alban’s Hall”