Hope in Action

October 2019


It’s nearly Thanksgiving — time to think about all the things that we’ve been blessed with this year. At Ray of Hope, we’re thankful to have the support of people like you who generously support our mission through gifts of your time, treasure and talent. Without you, the Marketplace (read about it below) and other programs that help our most vulnerable neighbours could not exist. And as we reflect on the past twelve months and plan for a new year, we hope that you’ll continue to walk, serve and celebrate with us.

Living the mission

One year after joining Ray of Hope, CEO Tonya Verburg reflects on a year of learning, hard decisions and building for the future.

Tonya Verburg’s first year as CEO of Ray of Hope has been one of discovery.

“It’s been a chance to dive in and learn about the organization, our staff and volunteers and especially about the evolving needs of the people we serve,” she says.

To do that, she’s not only looked at the organization from an administrative level, but from the front lines as well.

She works shifts at the Community Centre (ROHCC) and makes regular visits to the youth justice, youth employment and youth addictions programs. And everywhere she goes, she’s listening to people’s experiences as guests, clients, volunteers and staff.

“I’m trying to get a true understanding of the people we support and the people who work with us to do that,” she says.

The importance of listening

Tonya’s also taken a hands-on approach when it comes to staff training. For instance, she’s been leading a training program in trauma-informed care.

Trauma-informed care addresses the devastating life events so many of our guests and clients have experienced. It helps care providers understand how violence or neglect can contribute to mental illness, substance abuse and criminal activity. And again, listening is key.

“Trauma-informed care means asking people ‘What has happened to you?’ not ‘What’s wrong with you?’” Tonya says.

By truly understanding and responding to the effects of trauma, staff can help survivors regain a sense of control. Over the past years, we’ve seen many examples of guests using their talents in everything from hospitality to fundraising to give back to the community.

“Everyone has strengths,” Tanya says. “Our job is to help the people we work with discover their strengths and then use them to move forward.”

Focusing on our strengths

Just as Ray of Hope helps guests focus on their individual strengths, the organization periodically needs to assess its own. And sometimes that assessment can lead to difficult choices.

An example? The recent decision to transfer the Welcome Home refugee program to the care of the Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support.

“While our hearts are still with supporting refugees, we realized that we are not experts in caring for newcomers,” Tanya says. “We need to focus on what we’re good at.”

To help narrow that focus, Ray of Hope will soon undergo an accreditation process that will help measure the impact of all of our programs.

“Our mission is to demonstrate the love of Christ with those who are disadvantaged, marginalized, or troubled,” Tanya says. “We want to make sure that we’re doing the work God is calling us to do.”

(Watch for more about trauma-informed care and the transfer of refugee services in upcoming issues of Hope in Action.)

More than a number at the Marketplace

Our wonderful Ray of Hope Community Centre Admin Assistant, Julie Letford, prepares to book guests in for their shopping appointments at the Marketplace.

On a recent Wednesday morning at the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC), volunteers Richard Gough and Steph McKellar assisted a full roster of guests as they selected three days worth of groceries. During their 15 minute Marketplace appointment, guests “shopped” for fresh fruit and vegetables, bread, refrigerated items, plus canned and boxed goods according to a point system. Individuals receive 60 points, couples 90, and families with five kids gets 135 points.

Some of the fresh produce available to guests at the Marketplace.

“Being able to shop gives people a little bit of dignity,” says ROHCC Admin Assistant, Julie Letford. She adds, “Spending time one on one with a volunteer makes them feel like a person not a number.”

A volunteer with the Marketplace for 4 years, Julie joined the Ray of Hope staff a year ago. She continues to manage the program that books 450 appointments per month and serves more than 2,000 individual people per year.

A man who uses the Marketplace says, “Before we had appointments, there was pushing and shoving in line [to get food]. It was very bad.” He adds, “The volunteers are very nice and very helpful.” The man appreciates the meat, cereal, peanut butter, and vegetables that he receives.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region delivers food on Mondays to cover the two times the Marketplace is open at the beginning of the week. A Wednesday shipment provides food for the rest of the week.

Richard enjoys meeting new people while volunteering at the Marketplace.

“With the new Canada food guide focused on more fruits and vegetables, the Food Bank has upped the amount of fresh produce we receive,” says Julie. Cucumbers, greens, potatoes, corn, and other items come from grocery stores and some local farmers.

Richard enjoys serving at the Marketplace because he says, “It puts me in touch with the immigrant community that I wouldn’t otherwise interact with.”

Steph just finished her education and hopes to work in the social work field. She says “the Marketplace is a great place to volunteer.”

In addition to food from the Food Bank, Ray of Hope is always happy to receive donations from individuals and community groups. Canned protein and Halal food are always needed. Julie says people tend to give on the three big Christian holidays—Easter, Christmas and Thanksgiving but that there is a drought of donations between April and October.

“We need a Christmas in July,” she jokes.

Want to help feed hungry neighbours through the Marketplace? See a list of the items we need most or find out how you can volunteer!

Good food reveals God's love

Hungry teens at Ray of Hope Secure enjoy the recipes below, created by cooks Karen Berry and Theresa Herron. Try them for your next large group meal.

Theresa’s Cheese Tortellini in Garlic Butter Sauce

Italian ravioli pasta with spinach and ricotta on wooden backgro

20 cups of chicken broth (divided)

3/4 cups of cornstarch

10-12 cups frozen cheese tortellini

1 cup butter

10 cloves garlic minced

2 tbsp. basil

  • In a large pot, bring 18 cups of broth to a boil.  Add cheese tortellini.
  • Return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  • The tortellini will float to the top when cooked and the internal temperature should be 165 degrees F. for at least 15 seconds.  Drain completely.
  • Meanwhile, whisk together remaining 2 cups of broth with corn starch.  In a large non-stick skillet, melt the butter over medium heat until foaming.  Stir in the garlic and basil and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add broth-cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil.  Simmer until the mixture thickens.
    Add the cooked tortellini to the skillet and toss to coat.
  • Pour into a serving dish and garnish with parmesan cheese, basil and parsley.

Serve immediately. Feeds 15-20 people.

Karen’s Apple Crisp

apple crisp with peeled apples on a barnyard background

16 cups of apples, peeled, and sliced

1 1/3 cups of softened butter

2 cups of flour

3 cups of brown sugar

2 cups of oats

Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste

  • Peel and slice the apples, and put into a buttered insert pan.
  • Mix together the butter, flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg until crumbly.
  • Spread on top of the apples.
  • Bake in the oven for 60 to 90 minutes, until apples are tender.

If the apple crisp gets a little dry as it bakes, pour a  little milk or half-and-half cream over the apples.

Will put a smile on the face of 20 people.

How you can help todayHomeless man wearing glasses

When you give any of these items, you help to 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

Or provide meals for hungry people through our secure donation page