Red Deer’s The Mustard Seed saw community need grow on all fronts in 2022.
Demand for the school lunch program grew by 25 per cent — which meant volunteers were making up to 600 lunches a day for kids who would otherwise go without, said Byron Bradley, managing director of the Central Alberta, The Mustard Seed.
Cost-of-living pressures also increased the number of people the charity saw at its free community dinners on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“We would have 200 people on some nights,” said Bradley, who has noticed four to five families regularly attending these dinners, compared to only one or two in previous years.
And The Mustard Seed’s 46-space shelter has been running at capacity on many nights — especially since October.
Unless the cost of gas, groceries and rent begin to decline in 2023 — which Bradley thinks is unlikely — he expects the new year to be a tough one.
To help lift people’s spirits this holiday season, the Mustard Seed in Red Deer is launching some special Christmas events for drop-in guests, as well as shelter clients.
A Christmas meal for the community will be served on Dec. 23 at 5 p.m., while a gift-giving and Christmas dinner event for shelter guests only will be held on Dec. 25.
Bradley said people experiencing homelessness and poverty can often feel isolated and lonely during the Christmas season, so staff and volunteers at The Mustard Seed are offering fellowship and support.
“We strive to bring hope, joy, peace, and love to their lives in various ways… We cannot do this without the support from the community,” said Bradley, who appreciates “every hour volunteered and every dollar that can help feed, clothe, put a roof over someone’s head.”
The goal is to help people “get back on their two feet,” he added.
Among the seasonal events that started on Monday, and will continue throughout the weekend, are a musical fellowship, a bingo night, all-day movie and coffee bar, a craft and cookie day, and the Christmas dinners.
The Mustard Seed is a Christian non-profit organization that has been caring for individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty since 1984.