By Stephanie Donaldson
On Sunday, June 23 Rev. Canon Dr. Lorne Mitchell blessed five backpacks at St. James’, Stratford’s 10:30 am service. These backpacks along with five sleeping bags were taken to Romeo School, Stratford to be given to the five students, four boys and one girl, that St. James’ is supporting to attend Huron Church Camp (HCC).
I first proposed this ministry to St. James’ a year and a half ago. It was embraced by the Outreach Committee and planning began immediately for the outreach lunches that would fund this project. Last year, thanks to the grace and generosity of St. James’ parishioners with the proceeds from two outreach lunches, the annual Bean Lunch and parishioners and community members at the monthly Men’s Breakfasts, sufficient funds were raised to send three students to camp. This year all of the preceding raised enough to send five students to camp.
Kate Lusk, Principal of Romeo School also embraced the idea. She was visibly moved that St. James’ wanted to offer some of her students an opportunity to attend a summer camp. We discussed the items that the children are required to bring to camp and identified those items that might be a stretch for the families to afford.
Back at St. James’, the Outreach Committee offered that we should not only provide the items but also backpacks to put them in. So three gently used backpacks were scooped from St. James’ Annual Variety Sale. The Outreach Committee was not content with supplying some of the required items: they commissioned me to purchase sleeping bags at Canadian Tire in Exeter. While I was looking at the bag the committee had selected a sales assistant directed me to a far superior bag that was going on sale the next day, marked down 55% which would have it costing substantially less than the selected bag. I was back in Exeter at 8am to purchase the bags. This year we were able to get the same bags, again marked down 55%, with the owner of Canadian Tire deeply discounting the items for the backpacks, which were donated by Samsonite in Stratford.
With the joyful reception of this ministry by Kate Lusk and Romeo School and the kids, the St. James’ Outreach Committee and parishioners who threw their loving and wholehearted support behind it and the wider community who stepped in we have partnered to make a difference in the lives of some children. This ministry is a wonderful way to support both HCC and children and families in our neighbourhoods.
Stephanie Donaldson is a member of St. James’ (Stratford) Outreach Committee.