What do a 15-year-old unwed mother living in a boarding house at Cannon and Wentworth and a foursome of executives on the ninth hole of a north Burlington golf course have in common? Mission Services.
One of the first connections I discovered when I came to Hamilton Community News in November was with that agency and Barry Coe, its director of community relations and development. The organization’s Opportunity Centres had recently moved from Wellington Street to the site of the former Hamilton Institute of Technology on Wentworth Street. The building had undergone $2 million in renovations (a project recently recognized by the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Awards Committee) to meet the vision of providing a true resource for Hamilton’s most vulnerable citizens.
Late last month I, along with HCN office manager and golf tournament planner Lorna Lester, dropped in for a tour of the facility. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t the bright, open spaces, the positive energy or the bustling sense of camaraderie flowing between the clients, the workers and the volunteers slugging boxes of donations.
Situated across the parking lot from Cathy Wever Elementary School and kitty-corner from Pinky Lewis Arena, Mission Services completes a neighbourhood triumvirate in one of Hamilton’s grittiest areas. Life expectancy here, notes Coe, is 20 years lower than in, say, Ancaster. Home situations are unstable, as those living below the poverty line are sometimes forced to move around amongst friends and relatives to put a roof over their heads. Many struggle with addiction.
Inside Mission Services, the walls are painted with the mantra “Caring Healing Learning.” And these words are put into action: to the left, a few of the agency’s 400 volunteers sort clothing donations. Straight ahead, a worker fields a question about arranging bus passes. To the right, a woman perched on a folding chair waits for groceries while behind her boxes of food are unloaded onto skids. Beyond the main area are the rooms where addiction counseling in the Suntrac program takes place. The walls display surprisingly delicate, vibrant paintings done by some of the program participants.
On the second floor, a communal kitchen offers a potential teaching space and classrooms are ready for students. Mission Services has partnered with St. Charles Adult Education Centres, which will soon offer basic literacy courses and, organizers hope, cooking classes at the facility.
The Mission Services vision remains strong, despite a year that saw a 34 per cent increase in demand at Christmas and a decrease in donations due to the disastrous growing season last year that prevented area farmers from making their usual contributions.
That’s where the golf course comes in.
The ninth annual Hamilton Community News Mission Services golf tournament takes place on May 2 at Hidden Lake Golf Club. Already, about 13 foursomes have signed up, which means there’s still plenty of room to reserve a spot. For those looking for a great way to advertise their services or products to the participants, there is a wide variety of options, from a business card spot on the program to dinner partner opportunities.
To register or find out more, visit www.mission-services.com or call 905-528-4211.