In light of the second annual World Day of the Poor on Sunday, November 18, Deacon Pat Colangelo reflects on the work of the Welcoming Arms ministry for low-income community members in Aurora – an initiative brought to life by churches of different denominations working together. 1. What is the mission of the Welcoming Arms ministry, and how did it begin?Welcoming Arms believes in the inherent dignity of all people. Reflecting Christ's love, we seek to help Aurora's residents in need to experience a fuller participation in society by providing social, economic and spiritual support. We launched in October 2006. This concept originated through a discussion between churches in Aurora. Families, individuals, unemployed and those on social assistance were looking for financial assistance to get them through the month. Church leaders believed that if resources were pooled – both from a financial and volunteer perspective – the low-income and marginalized members of our community would be better served. 2. Which churches are involved in supporting the ministry?We have six churches supporting this ministry, including: Aurora Cornerstone Church, Aurora United Church, The Campus Church, Trinity Anglican Church, Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church and St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. 3. What services and programs are offered?· Bridging the Gap: Visitors have access to toiletries, YRT (York Region Transit) tickets, grocery gift cards and referral to community agencies. Mondays and Thursdays: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.· Welcome Table: A community dinner welcoming more than 100 guests each week. Wednesdays: 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. · Martha's Table: A community luncheon offering a hot meal and fellowship. Thursdays: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.· Seasonal: Free income tax preparation, Christians Against Poverty money management, Giving Garden, Christmas assistance and Christmas Dream Dinner, which provides a meal and fellowship on Christmas Day. 4. What kind of an impact have you seen on those whom you serve?I would like to share a comment made by one of our visitors:"I just wanted to express my gratitude to Welcoming Arms. And also commend you and all the volunteers/staff for what you're doing. Helping people in need! I recently just came from lunch at Martha's Table. I am full of nourishment right now. I am glad that I went. I almost didn't godue to embarrassment, I'm so glad I let go of that feeling and went in! Yesterday evening I attended Welcome Table and Bridging the Gap. I was welcomed with welcoming arms and without judgment and right now that's exactly what I needed. I'm able to keep going with my job search as having ate a decent meal it gave me the energy I so desperately was seeking…You're all angels in my eyes." 5. Anything else you want to add about being a part of this ministry?Being part of this ministry has given me the opportunity to get in touch firsthand with the reality that surrounds us. We may be living in a place where everything is available to most of us, but there are many to whom even the most basic needs are denied. This ministry has given me the opportunity to put into practice Deuteronomy 15: 7-11, which tells us, "If there is among you anyone in need…I therefore command you, open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land." Through this ministry I receive more than I give.
For more information on Welcoming Arms, or to get involved, visit www.welcomingarms.ca.