Hope in Action

July 2021


The Book of Ecclesiastes says that “to everything, there is a season.” This month at Ray of Hope, we’re marking both a beginning and, sadly, an ending.

We’re excited to tell you about a new program at the Community Centre that will teach guests important skills to help them lead fuller, healthier lives. At the same time, we say goodbye to Director of Development Scott Brush. If you’ve met Scott, then you’ll know how much his knowledge and enthusiasm will be missed.

As always, we’re grateful for your support of our ministry to hungry, homeless, and hurting neighbours. This month, we also ask for your prayers for Scott as he embarks on a new path of service, and for our leadership team as they seek his replacement. Thank you!

Surviving to thriving

New Life Skills program helps guests take the first steps toward a better future

On any given day, most of us complete dozens of little tasks, from balancing our monthly budget to making a grocery list. Although these may seem like simple achievements, they form the building blocks of a productive, healthy life.

Many people living in poverty have never had the opportunity to learn these small but important skills. But now, thanks to a generous donor, that’s about to change for a group of Ray of Hope’s guests.

Kate kneels next to a brown and white dog in a snowy field
Services Coordinator Kate Rockwell has developed a program to help Ray of Hope’s guests develop important life skills.

First steps

Kate Rockwell, a Services Coordinator at the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC), designed and leads the new Life Skills program, which started in June.

“Many of our guests had to learn survival skills, but they were never really taught how to live proactive, healthy lifestyles. And that creates barriers that prevent them from moving into a job and out of poverty. The goal of this program is to help people to take those first steps toward the life that they want.”

Safe and respected 

Kate explains that the Life Skills program “looks at the whole person.” Participants are learning practical skills — from cleaning and nutrition to personal finance and employment basics.

“But they’re also practicing emotional regulation. Because if you don’t understand your emotional state, you’re not going to be able to apply those skills,” she says. She adds that the group developed their own guidelines — from showing up on time to staying positive — to ensure that the sessions run smoothly, and everyone feels safe and respected in the classroom.



Closeup of a woman's hands as she breaks and egg into a glass bowl
Every week, program participants will receive gifts related to what they’re learning. These tools will help them continue to improve their skills at home.

Building a toolkit

Over the course of the 16-week program, participants will not only learn new skills, they will also receive gifts related to what they’re learning. During the nutrition session, for example, they’ll be provided with cooking utensils and recipes so they can continue to explore and practice once they’ve completed the program.

In addition, participants who complete the entire program will receive a small sum of money. This gift will allow them — with guidance from a financial advisor ­— to invest or save.

Giving back

The donor who made this program possible is an executive at InControl Diapers; InControl provided funding for an entire year.

“This person has known poverty and is now very successful,” Kate says. “As a result, they want to give back. They want to be able to bless other people who are in the same situation that they were once in.”

Kate Rockwell


“We want people to feel confident in themselves because, without that, it’s really difficult to seek change. We hope participants will feel cared for. That they feel they have dignity and that they will be able to create new goals for themselves.”

Kate Rockwell, Services Coordinator

Creating new goals

By providing a nurturing space for participants to grow, Kate believes that the program can have far-reaching and positive effects.

“We want people to feel confident in themselves because, without that, it’s really difficult to seek change. We hope participants will feel cared for. That they feel they have dignity and that they will be able to create new goals for themselves,” Kate says.

“On a broader level, we also want to help people to rely less on agencies and to be able to be a positive light in their community. Even if the program helps only one person, it will be worth it,. But I believe it is going to have a bigger impact that will radiate outwards from our little classroom.”

Want to learn more about the Ray of Hope programs your support makes possible? Check out past issues of Hope in Action.

Ray of Hope says goodbye to Scott Brush

Late last month, Ray of Hope said goodbye to Scott Brush, our Director of Development. Scott has accepted a Program Manager role with Indwell, a Christian charity that creates affordable housing communities. Indwell’s programs support more than 700 people in Hamilton, Woodstock, Simcoe, London, and, most recently, in Kitchener. Scott will be launching a new project in Chatham.

Since arriving at Ray of Hope in 2003, Scott has contributed his many talents in a variety of roles, first as a chaplain and mentor serving at-risk youth (or as he would say, “at-promise” youth). In 2010, he began leading Ray of Hope’s fundraising and public relations efforts.

Scott Brush serves pancakes to guests at Heffner Toyota's 6th annual charity breakfast
Scott serving pancakes at Heffner Toyota’s annual breakfast in support of Ray of Hope.

A servant leader

“Leadership is Scott’s spiritual gift,” says Ray of Hope Chaplain John Murray. “But what I have so much appreciated is that Scott is a true ‘servant leader’, following the example of Jesus.”

“Scott’s efforts over the past 18 years led to increased funds, resources, volunteers, staff, and blessings for all of Ray of Hope,” Chaplain John adds. “He demonstrated a commitment to our staff and volunteers to ensure they are equipped, valued, and celebrated in their roles.”

Scott has worked tirelessly to create fundraising events and programs to support people struggling with poverty, crime, and addiction. For instance, he collaborated with Blue Sea Philanthropy to establish the very first Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) fundraising walk, right here in Kitchener-Waterloo. Nearly 150 communities across Canada now host CNOY; the KW walk contributes a significant amount of funding for the Community Centre’s programs.

A personal approach

Hilary Zorgdrager, who worked closely with Scott as a Donations Assistant, says that “his outgoing personality and life-long community involvement forged a great number of relationships that benefit Ray of Hope.”

“From a fundraising perspective, Scott brought a personal approach to donor stewardship that is often lost in this age of automation. He always went that extra mile to ensure donors felt heard and appreciated.”

Scott with Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger at the Coldest Night of the Year walk.

Building relationships

Community Relations Specialist Jon Hill notes that “Scott has been open about his faith in Christ, but with a sensitivity that is attractive even to non-Christian professionals. I believe this has resulted in his ability to build some important relationships in the community. This has been beneficial for our government-funded programs as well. His joyful and tranquil relationships have made him someone people want to support and work with.”

“Scott is endlessly encouraging to those under his supervision (and even those who may not be directly under his supervision),” Hilary adds. “My grandma always told me if you’ve got something nice to say, you should say it, and Scott really lives that out!”

A bittersweet farewell

Finally, Ray of Hope’s CEO Tonya Verburg remembers that “the first time I presented with Scott and saw him come alive and engage with the audience, I was in awe. Scott’s departure is bittersweet for Ray of Hope, as he was integral in building the Development department into what it is today. He brought his unique charisma and personality to the role, and he will be greatly missed. However, we know he will bless Indwell and the Chatham area with his talents and we wish him nothing but God’s richest blessing in his future.”

Summer meal teams needed!

Looking for a way to give back with your bubble? Help us feed hungry neighbours this summer!

We couldn’t do what we do without the support of amazing meal teams. Please contact Volunteer Services Assistant Jaime Wright for more information on how your group can serve!

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