Hope in Action

September 2022


September marks the beginning of another school year, full of opportunities to learn and grow But students can’t do their best when their stomachs are empty. In this issue, learn how the Marketplace supports families like Marie’s — and how you can ensure children in our community get the nutrition they need. Then, hear from staff at our secure custody facility about how they support youth who are preparing for life after custody.

Thanks for helping our neighbours of all ages learn, grow and thrive!

Keeping the shelves stocked

It’s getting harder for the Marketplace to provide groceries for guests in need — many of whom are children. Here’s how you can help.


Soaring food prices are leading more people than ever to use food banks. Marie* is one of them. She works full-time in the hospitality industry, but inflation has taken a huge bite out of her monthly budget – and her wages haven’t kept up. Marie and her three children are among the 79 new families who joined Ray of Hope’s Marketplace grocery program in the past three months.

“I’ve always managed before. But lately, it’s been a struggle to make sure my kids have enough to eat,” she says.

The Marketplace relies on donors to keep its shelves stocked. But as more people feel the economic pinch, they are less able to donate the food and money needed to keep the program going. And that worries program manager Julie Letford.

“The summer months are typically the lowest period of donations”, she says. “But right now, we’re experiencing incredibly low volumes of stock.”

Providing food and dignity

Located in the Ray of Hope Community Centre, the Marketplace provides dignity as well as food. No one has to prove that they need help. And unlike a typical food bank, Marketplace guests can choose what food and personal hygiene products they take home. While there may be limits on certain items, like frozen food, guests select the groceries they prefer from what’s available.

In addition, guests can “shop” the shelves with a Ray of Hope volunteer. Shopping alongside a friendly volunteer helps guests feel more comfortable and helps them build relationships.

“I was embarrassed the first time I came to the Marketplace,” Marie says. “I felt ashamed that I couldn’t feed my kids on my own. But the program volunteers helped me realize that I’m doing the best I can for my children and that’s what’s most important.”

Showing Jesus’ love in practical ways

Woodside Bible Fellowship in Elmira is one of the churches that regularly supports the Marketplace as part of their outreach programs.

“We believe that practical needs coincide with spiritual needs and that often practical needs must be a prerequisite for the fulfillment of spiritual needs,” says Theresa Freeman, Director of Connections at Woodside.

“Giving to Ray of Hope by way of food donations is a method of showing Jesus’ love in practical ways.”

How you can help

We are incredibly grateful to the churches, community groups, and individuals who generously give to our program, and we are always in need of support.

Donations of food or personal hygiene items to the Marketplace are gratefully accepted. Items can be dropped off at the rear entrance at 659 King St. East, Kitchener, from Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. (See a list of our most-needed items at the bottom of this page.) You can also make a financial gift designated to the Marketplace through our secure donation page.

Thanks for helping Marie, her kids, and the hundreds of other people who rely on the Marketplace!

*Name has been changed.

Celebrating success in custody

Staff share the challenges — and the joys — of working with young men at Ray of Hope Secure.

Image of young women sitting in front of a fireplace
Staff at Ray of Hope Secure

In some ways, they are like teenagers everywhere. They can be impulsive. They test boundaries at every level. They can also be thoughtful, funny and kind.

The difference is that the young men at Ray of Hope’s Secure Custody facility — some of them as young as 12 —have committed crimes serious enough to earn jail time.

We asked youth care workers Ramla, Roopa and Amanda and youth justice worker Ikraan what it’s like to work with these teens.

Services support development

Unlike some other custodial programs, Ray of Hope Secure stresses positive relationship-building.

“We focus on building rapport with the youth and developing an individual Plan of Care to help them overcome challenges and develop resilience,” says Ramla.

The facility also provides a wide range of services that support physical, emotional, and social development. These include education programs, skills training, sports, music, art and chapel, along with programs offered by the John Howard Society.


Closeup of hands holding playing cards
Staff at Secure often use activities like playing cards, sports, working out, or listening to music as clinical tools to establish rapport and help youth focus.

Building trust

Of course, working with young people from troubled backgrounds isn’t easy.

“Youth who have had many traumas, anxiety issues, or difficult family situations are more prone to exhibit emotions and act aggressively,” Ramla says. “We try to build trust and guide them. We want them to develop the ability to bounce back from their challenges.”

“Some youth have no positive role models,” Ikraan adds. “For example, a young person shared with me that his family constantly has conflicts with the law. So, it was easy for him to follow that same path. We can’t change their external factors, but we can try to motivate them to make the right decisions.”

Sadly, sometimes youth aren’t willing to make the necessary changes.

“In my time at Secure, I have experienced former clients passing away due to the dangers of street life and addictions,” Roopa says.

Celebrating success

Mike* enjoys baking as part of the culinary skills training program. *Not his real name.

Despite the challenges, staff see success stories, too. “Many of the young people here work on bettering themselves every day,” Amanda says. “They want to succeed once they are back in the community!”

Ikraan describes how several young men recently graduated from Secure’s Trades and Employment Readiness Program. “They are talking about pursuing careers in construction or even starting a small home renovation business,” she says.

Staff make sure to recognize and celebrate every step forward, from beginning to use simple manners to achieving major milestones like graduating from high school.

For Amanda, the best part of working with the youth is “seeing them gain skills to become successful members of society.” For Roopa, it’s watching young people from tough backgrounds get the chance to be kids.

“We get to see them be YOUTH and they share their stories and lives with us,” she says.

Help a neighbour in need

When you give, you make life a little easier for vulnerable people in our community. Thank you!

The Marketplace food hamper program has put out a special call for these items:

  • Cereal
  • Canned food (meat and fish, fruit, soup, etc.)
  • Pasta and pasta sauce
  • Reusable shopping bags
  • Toiletries, especially toothpaste and toothbrushes, razors, shampoo/conditioner and feminine hygiene products

For more information, please contact us at: info@rayofhope.net.

You can also feed hungry people through our secure donation page.