The Mustard Seed

June 10, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot for many of us, and the challenge has been particularly noticeable for charities and community assistance groups. 

coop Cares2Calgary Co-op is working with local community groups and agencies to get more help during this uncertain time, through a fundraising initiative called Calgary Co-op Cares. One of the charities is The Mustard Seed.

“COVID challenged every single procedure we have. Our organization has been built on face-to-face interactions, so we had to make a lot of changes very quickly,” says Stephen Wile, CEO of The Mustard Seed. “We’ve shifted to providing just essential services right now, and we define essential services as food, security, shelter, and clothing, primarily. So staff from some of our other programs have moved to help with that frontline work.”   

D2DPhotoThe Mustard Seed meets the immediate needs of those experiencing homelessness and poverty by providing emergency shelter, food, clothing, hot showers, and hygiene supplies. The Foothills Shelter has capacity for 370 adults every night and the organization is also able to offer transportation to and from the Downtown Support Centre, personal locker storage, meal service, and bagged lunches for those who are employed. In order to adhere to provincial physical distancing rules, a secondary shelter location was created at First Alliance Church. 

While the pandemic has brought challenges and changes to the daily business at the Mustard Seed, it’s also in a way nudged some clients to take bold steps.

“The pandemic has created new motivation in many of our long-term shelter guests, and they’ve been saying to us, ‘I need to be in a safer place. Can you get me into housing?’ Since mid-March we've placed 76 of our shelter clients into housing, which is a pretty significant number. Whatever their motivation is, we’re happy to do that because we're looking to improve the overall well-being of those people we serve, and housing is the best solution,” says Wile.  

Funds donated to The Mustard Seed by Calgary Co-op customers will go to urgently needed things like nutritious meals.  

“This will help us provide meals for our clients. At our shelter, we are providing almost a thousand meals a day. We also work with the food bank and we run a food bank hub out of our building downtown, so that provides food for our clients as well.” 

As 2020 evolves and agencies like The Mustard Seed need to continually adapt, Wile says he’s hopeful the agency’s Hubs will be able to re-open. These Hubs are remote and mobile assistance centres, where the organization reaches out even to those who haven’t come through its doors. 

“To reach out and provide for those that that have so much less than we do, we are so grateful for the Calgary Co-op’s team and members’ willingness to step up and stand in the gap for many of these people. So we’d like to offer just a heartfelt thank you for all that you’re doing.” 

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