2020 has brought with it a number of challenges, and one Winnipeg ministry says they're up for the challenge.
Kent Dueck is the Executive Director and founder of Inner City Youth Alive (ICYA), a community outreach ministry in Winnipeg's North End. He says they've clung to the phrase "adapt and overcome" throughout the year.
"2020 has been like 10 years in one year kind of thing," Dueck says. "It's been a super-busy and stressful year. I'm glad that we've been able to be nimble because things come up and then it's forced us to respond."
That nimbleness began in the spring when toilet paper was hard to find in stores throughout the city. ICYA was able to get a large supply and sell it to community members below cost.
They've also shifted to the forgotten and neglected people of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dueck says they noticed early on that "no one was going into the trap houses." Trap houses are places where addicts congregate, with up to 80 or 90 people going through in a day, he says. "Right at the beginning, we were going in to educate them on what COVID is and how it spreads."
The ministry team was able to provide addicts with hot meals, as well as to households in the areas. They've been able to provide families with several meals at a cost of just $25 for the ministry. However, after handing out around 7,000 hampers so far in 2020, "the expenses are mounting," Dueck says.
A loss of fundraising and an urgent need for help
The ministry usually holds its major fundraising event of the year in the fall, in the form of a gala. With an event of this kind impossible to pull off in 2020, they've remained nimble and adapted once again.
"We were forced to become TV producers," Director of Development, John Janzen, says. Like many non-profit organizations, the ministry has made a virtual event in place of its gala. They've appropriately called it the Bubble Gala, hoping people will take the event in with their 'bubble.'
"A number of donors had said already, 'Do not make us watch another hour-long talking head video where we have to sit and watch a boring read of your report.' We wanted to make sure it's entertaining, and make sure there's reports from the street."
The final result is not only an entertaining video but touches on tough issues with the reality of gang life in the area. It also features performances by Steve Bell, as well as Jets owner Mark Chipman accompanying the Janzen Boys on drums.
Not only can viewers watch the video, but they can register to receive a special "bubble package," as well as door prizes. The package includes a centre piece and lights for the table.
"We were nervous," Dueck says about the shift to a virtual event. "But it's going so well, and it's during times like this that we ask 'What is the Church for?' And people are seeing we are the hands and feet of the Church in this community.
"It's just 45 minutes of your life, it's designed that you can watch it while you eat your meal, and the discussions it prompts with your family is amazing."
While 2020 comes to a close, Janzen admits that questions about 2021 remain unanswerable, "But, we'll face this with asking for help. God has been so faithful in 2020 and we don't expect that to change in 2021."