Cornwall ON – A few dozen early risers attended the Agape Centre’s 40th Annual General Meeting this morning. After a guided tour of the operation, the meeting got underway in St. Columban Parish Activity Centre, located in the same building as Agape. The two organizations share resources from time to time, as is the case with Agape’s new garden, which is located in part on parish property. Also, the diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall agreed to hold the mortgage when the Centre purchased the former St. Columban Parish Centre in December 2006 in order to relocate and centralize services formerly offered at their cramped facility on McConnell Avenue. Although officially a secular organization for many years now, Agape traces its beginnings to a property across from the former St. John Bosco Church, and operated by then parishioners of the church.
Agape’s mission is to reduce the impact of poverty in the community. The Centre delivers services to the community through its food bank, soup kitchen, thrift shoppe, furniture and clothing referrals and referrals to community partners.
This has been a year of many changes for the centre, which has seen several new faces added to its ranks. Alyssa Blais came aboard as Executive Director, Lori Greer is the current Operations Manager, and Carilyne Hebert serves as Volunteer Coordinator. Changes are also evidenced in the soup kitchen as well as in the thrift shoppe storefront.
Some aging equipment had to be replaced, such as a commercial stove and steam table for the soup kitchen and a fridge for the food bank.
In addition to seven fulltime and 18 part-time employees, it takes a dedicated team of volunteers to keep Agape’s doors open. In 2010-11 more than 130 volunteers contributed some 27,000 hours of service. That’s equivalent to 15 fulltime employees. 33,993 meals were prepared and served in the soup kitchen last year. On average 950 people a month were provided with emergency food – 42% of them were children.
Priorities for the coming year include the development of a five year strategic plan; development of a sustainability plan, including a garden; and development and expansion of new fundraisers such as: Go Hungry 4 Agape, ChiliRun and an Amateur Boxing Event. Anyone interested in donating some time to this community-based organization is asked to contact the Agape Centre at 613-938-9297.
Pictured on either side of Agape’s Executive Director Alyssa Blais are two of the key cast members of ‘In Our Shoes’, Calna McGoldrick and Brian Dinsmore. Attendees of the AGM wrapped up their time together witnessing this “living play”, depicting poverty as portrayed by cast members who’ve struggled with such issues as homelessness, alcoholism and lack of acceptance by society. Brian is President of the Sault Ste. Marie Soup Kitchen Community Centre where Calna has worked for the past 16 years.