Hope in Action

December 2019


Someone once wrote that Christmas is not just about opening our presents, it’s about opening our hearts. At Ray of Hope, we’re grateful to all of you who have opened your hearts over the past year to care for our Community Centre guests and our program participants. Your support, whether it’s through money, time or prayers, allows people like Amberlee, who you’ll meet below, to change their lives for the better. What an amazing gift!

May you and yours have a blessed Christmas!

From broken to blossoming

How the Youth Employment Program helped Amberlee find her best self

Amberlee found confidence and a new career, thanks to the Youth Employment Program

Chatting to Amberlee – a bright, well-spoken young woman – you’d never guess that she once struggled with mental health issues that prevented her from holding a full-time job.

“I felt broken,” she says.

Amberlee is a participant in Ray of Hope’s Youth Employment Program. The program teaches practical skills and positive work habits to young people who have had difficulty maintaining full-time employment. Amberlee says it helped her develop the skills and confidence to find not just a job, but a promising career.

Now she’s working full-time for an insurance company and the woman who says she used to find it hard to talk to people is training to help clients find the right insurance products for their needs. She’s already looking at continuing education courses to further improve her skills and move up the career ladder.

“The program opened doors that I didn’t even know existed,” she says.

Easing into full-time work

In the Youth Employment Program, participants move through three phases: classroom training that prepares them for their job placements, a work term at one of Ray of Hope’s Morning Glory Café and Catering locations, and a paid placement with an external employer.

The program is coming to the end of its current three-year contract with Services Canada. During that time, 72 young people have participated; of those, 12 are currently enrolled in the program, 47 are employed, and 5 have returned to school. The program’s 34 employer partners include a variety of local organizations, including Central Fresh Market, KW Habilitation, 98.5 CKWR and KW Accessibility.

“When I learned about the program, I thought it was a perfect opportunity for me to ease myself into full-time work,” Amberlee says. “You start in the classroom and then gradually move into the workforce. They accommodate any issues you have. I wasn’t sure I could handle 35 hours at first. But Judy [the program’s employment counsellor at the time] told me they would work around that as long as my mental state was good – my mental health was their number one priority.”

With encouragement from Judy and Program Director Sharlene Wallace, Amber successfully completed both the classroom portion and the internal placement at the Morning Glory Café location at the Family Centre. Here Amberlee enjoyed not only learning to cook in a commercial setting but also interacting with Morning Glory staff and other participants.

“Up until that time I’d had very toxic work experiences. I thought every workplace was like that, but they showed me another world.”

“Become your best self”

While Amberlee was interviewing with employer partners for her external placement, a friend told her about a job opening at the insurance company. Equipped with her newfound confidence, she applied for the job and was hired.

Although Amberlee’s new employer is not technically part of the program, Youth Employment staff continue to check in with her as she adjusts to her new role. She’ll graduate from the program with the rest of her cohort.

“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at the Christmas party,” she says.

Amberlee has this advice for anyone who might be thinking about applying to the Youth Employment Program:

“The first couple of days may be hard, especially if you deal with anxiety. Meeting people is never easy, but listen to the instructors. They’re there to help you succeed if you want to succeed. There is no reason why you shouldn’t. They back you up 100%.”

“Ray of Hope is about helping us young individuals who either don’t believe in ourselves or who haven’t had the opportunities and the knowledge and background to succeed. The program gives you the opportunity to become your best self.”

What's new at Ray of Hope

Toronto Argonauts Chaplain Herbie Kuhn (seated) with players James Wilder Jr., Jamal Campbell and Kevin Fogg and ROH Chaplains John Murray and Hector Pineda.

Argos visit Youth Justice Program

We were excited to have Chaplain Herbie Kuhn and three members of the Toronto Argos – James Wilder Jr., Jamal Campbell, and Kevin Fogg – visit both our Youth Justice programs and share in the chapel program at our Secure facility. Herbie is also the floor announcer for the Toronto Raptors and recently received his NBA championship ring.

Guests helping guests

TV screen on an orange wallRecently, a large video screen was installed in the dining room at the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC). It’s now being used to help communicate ROHCC program info, announcements, and community events to our guests in a way that everyone can see. The cool thing about this project is it was mainly funded by a spring carwash put on by Warriors of Hope, a group of guests who volunteer to serve meals at the ROHCC. They saw a need and helped fill it. You can read about Tom, who organized the carwash, in the June issue of Hope in Action.

Mid-Month Microchallenge

old white stove
Generous Microchallenge supporters helped us replace this ageing stove in our Youth Addictions residential program.

We often need practical items like appliances to run our programs.  These aren’t big-ticket things – most are under $2,000 – but often we just don’t have the budget for them.

Since June 2018, generous people like you have contributed gifts of $50 through our Mid-Month Microchallenge to help us purchase these smaller but still important needs. Our supporters may give every month or once in a while when a particular request moves them. But every single gift helps us better care for the people we serve.

And the beauty of the Microchallenge is that we’re able to put those gifts to work right away and we’re often able to show our supporters their impact the very next month!

Here are just some of the things that those gifts have made possible:

Steel kitchen carts – These make tasks like moving heavy trays and loads of dishes easier for young people learning catering and hospitality skills in our Youth Employment Program.

A projector – We use the projector to enhance chapel services that bring God’s love to people who are searching for something positive in their lives.

A washing machine – Clean clothes can make a difference in health and self-esteem for guests who use the ROHCC’s laundry room.

A stove – This past month, our supporters helped us purchase a new stove that will not only help staff provide participants in our Youth Addictions residential program with healthy meals, but help them learn cooking skills as well.

We are so grateful to all those who support us through these small gifts with a big impact. If you’d like to learn more about the Microchallenge (and what next month’s need might be), please contact us at donations@rayofhope.net.

Coming up

January 22 – Come to the ROHCC for lunch and help decide which soup will be served on the Coldest Night of the Year!

February 22 – Join 600+ fellow walkers on the Coldest Night of the Year. Funds raised at the KW event go towards Ray of Hope programs that help hurting, homeless and hungry people in our community.

Help a neighbour in need

You can help today!

When you give any of these items, you make life a little easier for struggling neighbours. Thank you!

  • Protein items like tuna, peanut butter, canned stew and chili; instant coffee, milk powder and sugar; rice and cereal; jam and canned fruit; spaghetti sauce and soup
  • Men’s socks and underwear; razors and shaving cream, shampoo and hand lotion

You can also provide meals for hungry people through our secure donation page.