Hope Mission has moved into Red Deer to operate a free after-school program to support children in low-income neighbourhoods.
Hope Mission began in 1929 in Edmonton as a soup kitchen and men’s shelter, and in the last few years spread into Calgary, Wetaskiwin and now Red Deer to run social service programs.
In October, the not-for-profit Christian social care agency started Kids in Action at G. H. Dawe School, Normandeau School, Glendale Sciences and Technology School, and Aspen Heights Elementary School.
Kids in Action runs two days a week at G. H. Dawe where 90 students signed up, and one day a week at the other schools.
A total of 170 elementary students are enrolled. A pilot program for youth, Grade 6 to 8, has 10 students at Normandeau.
“We’re looking for the low-income kids who couldn’t afford after school care. They couldn’t afford a soccer program. Those are the ones we’re really targeting,” said Kelly Row, Red Deer Hope for Mission manager, on Wednesday.
“I think the beauty is we’re going to them right in their school. They don’t have to arrange to get somewhere, show up at a field or community centre.”
He said it’s all about giving students the opportunity to have fun.
“They don’t have to make a sports team. They don’t have to display skill. They just come. They learn it’s just about participating. Come and participate and enjoy.”
Students take part in games, physical activity, and get a snack and sandwich meal.
“Some are eating two sandwiches. A lot of the kids are not bringing proper food to school, if any, for lunch.”
Loaves and Fishes provides the food.
Row said addressing the needs of students can help prevent them from ending up on the street later on in life.
Hope Mission is also looking at developing programs for adults in Red Deer’s downtown. The mission’s centre is located at 5217 50th Ave., the former Bargain Treasures Thrift Store, and run prayer and bible study groups in partnership with Potter’s Hands.
“We don’t want to come in here and duplicate a bunch of services. There’s a lot of great things going on in Red Deer. But a city of this size, there’s always places to go where needs aren’t being met.”
He said Hope Mission runs shelter, meal, Housing First, and residential addiction recovery programs for men and women in Edmonton. The recovery program, which provide a sober place to live for a year that includes meals and support before clients move into other supported housing, is missing in Red Deer.
Hope Mission is funded through donations and government grants depending on the program.
Row said Kids In Action in Red Deer is currently funded by Edmonton’s Hope Mission.
“Edmonton has planted the seed. Now it’s our job to build up the support with in Red Deer and get recognition so people know what we’re doing. Then they can decide if it’s something they want to help out and donate to.”
Hope Mission has organized a Kids in Action 5K Race to be held June 11 at Great Chief Park. Volunteers are required so each student can run with an adult runner. Non-running volunteers are also needed.
Volunteer registration is open now. Visit www.hopemission.com/5KRace for information.
A free week-long camp will also be available to Red Deer students this summer through Hope Mission in Calgary.