Hope in Action

October 2017

There are times in our lives when we feel lost in the darkness. Many of the people we serve feel that every day, as they struggle with homelessness, poverty, addictions and mental illness. A lot of our work at Ray of Hope involves helping our guests and clients realize their own worth. Because we believe what the Bible says, “For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness.”

Read on to learn how Community Centre staff find strength in difficult times and about a former guest’s personal journey of hope.

On the front lines of the opioid crisis

It was a regular day at the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC). Until a volunteer rushed up to Shift Supervisor Jessica VanEs to report an unresponsive guest in the men’s washroom.

Breaking into the stall, staff found a young man, unconscious, slumped on the toilet, with a syringe sticking out of his arm.

While fellow Supervisor Chantelle Mann called 911, Jess and the man’s female friend called his name to try and get a response. Nothing.

Jess administered the first dose of naloxone, a life-saving drug in nasal spray form that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

Suddenly, the man stopped breathing. His friend grabbed the naloxone spray and gave him the second dose.

As Chantel stayed on the phone with emergency services, Jess and the friend pulled the man to the floor and began CPR.

Moments later, paramedics arrived and gave the man a third dose. Just as they were about to insert a breathing tube, he regained consciousness.

He was one of the lucky ones.

Between 2014 and 2016, the number of deaths in Waterloo Region due to opioid overdoses jumped from 22 to 38, a 65% increase. And this year’s numbers are predicted to be even worse, with 42 deaths reported as of August.

Waterloo Region is in the midst of an opioid crisis and Ray of Hope staff are on the front line.

Responding to the crisis

Over the past year, we have responded to six overdoses at the Community Centre. And staff have seen a dramatic increase in the number of needles discarded around the property as well as the number of physical fights.

Ray of Hope has responded by adding extra staff to evening shifts and installing disposal containers where drug users can safely get rid of syringes. Staff have also received additional training in dealing with guests’ aggressive behaviour and withdrawal symptoms.

But no matter how much training a person has, these stressful situations take a toll.

“When you’re working in a job that can be hard emotionally, self-care is really important,” Jess says. “During staff meetings, we’ve started checking in with everyone, asking them to share the high and low points of the week. We’ve also added time for prayer.”

Are you worried that a friend or family member is at risk of opioid overdose? Sanguen Health Services provides individual and group training to help you prevent overdose, recognize when an overdose is happening, and to feel comfortable administering naloxone in an emergency.  

Stories of hope

No matter how hard the job is, staff never give up on guests. 

“I’ve had people ask me ‘Why don’t you just let [overdose victims] die?’ says Jon Hill, Community Centre Director. 

“My response is that 42 years ago, that could have been me. I’m glad someone cared enough about me to help.” 

And among the bleak overdose statistics, there are amazing stories of lives transformed. 

“We’ve had people who have undergone intensive treatment and have completely turned their lives around. One of them recently reached out to us, not as a guest, but as a colleague.” John says. 

“We can’t lose hope,” Jess adds. “People can bounce back from addiction or find healthy ways to deal with past hurts, but it takes others who are willing to come alongside those people and help them know that they are valued, that their life has purpose, and that they are loved.”

How you can help. Please pray for Community Centre staff and volunteers as they care for those struggling with addiction. And if you are able, please consider a gift of money or time to this important ministry. 

Hope Hero: Jeff White

Jeff White (in black shirt) is the General Manager of the Domino’s Pizza store at 188 Highland Road West in Kitchener. Jeff donates pizzas to Ray of Hope as a way to give back after he received help at the Community Centre.

Meet Jeff White, manager of the Domino’s Pizza store on Highland Road West in Kitchener. Jeff recently started donating pizzas to Ray of Hope. And there’s a very special reason why…

What’s your connection with Ray of Hope?

My dad moved out of the province when I was young and I was living on my own by the time I was 18. My dad had supported me in everything, so when he left I didn’t really know much about finding a place to live or a job. I had to learn by experience.

I was getting assistance from Ontario Works, but that just covers the minimum. By the time you pay your rent you have about $90 to buy groceries for the rest of the month.

My sister had been to Ray of Hope and she told me I could get meals, clothing and groceries there. Some friends and I started coming for dinner at the Community Centre and I used a lot of the services.

And now you’re managing a business. How did you make the transition?

It was hard. I was unhappy and depressed. I was living in places where there was a lot of drugs and violence. It took me until I was 22 and then finally I said, “I’m done with this. I’m doing something with my life.”

I started using the resources around me. Ontario Works put me in touch with Lutherwood. They helped me work on my resume and find my first job. And then a friend offered me a job at the Domino’s Pizza store he was managing. When he left, I became the manager. I’ve been managing Domino’s stores for three years now.

When did you start your community support?

We didn’t do a lot of fundraisers until Christina McCallum-Smith, our new District Manager, arrived. She encouraged all the Kitchener stores to start supporting charities.

I decided I wanted to help Ray of Hope because that was the first place I got my resources from. I wanted to give back to the community that helped me.

So now I donate pizzas to Ray of Hope. I’ve also supported events for the CNIB, the Humane Society and a lot of the charity runs at Chicopee. And on November 1, staff from the Kitchener stores will be working on a build for Habitat for Humanity.

“I encouraged the managers to start by finding a way to help someone who had helped them. I think the opportunity to give back opened new doors for Jeff and he has taken that opportunity and run with it. I’m very proud of him.” ~ Christina McCallum-Smith, Corporate Area Supervisor Kitchener, Domino’s Pizza

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about your business?

When I help out a charity by supplying pizzas, I also send staff to volunteer. I want people to know we’re there to help. We’re not just there to get publicity.

You do good things and good things happen to you.

If you’d like some help with food for your next charity event, contact Jeff with the details. You can reach him at jeffjwhite@outlook.com. And the next time you’ve got a craving for pizza, why not call the Highland Road Domino’s?

Coming up

November 17 – 50th Anniversary Gala, with special guest Frank O’Dea

On the lookout

Can you help provide one of these items for our programs? If so, please call 519-578-8018.

  • Protein items like canned meat, tuna, chili or stew
  • Baby formula, diapers and boxes of baby cereal
  • Regular sized deodorants, shaving cream and razors (men’s and women’s)
  • Bus tickets