A Whole Year

It has officially been a year since I started working at The Dale. 

As I sit and reflect over this year, it makes me sad. This year kind of sucked for a lot of reasons. But truly, being a part of The Dale played a huge part in helping me get through this year.

The Dale became a new community in my life after recently losing my community in Chicago, where I just graduated from college. While feeling low about that loss, The Dale slowly felt more and more like a place that I belong. Leaving school hit me harder than I thought, as I left some of my best friends in the states and settled back in Canada. At the start of my time at The Dale, I really felt shy walking into a Monday morning drop-in with a room full of strangers. But it didn’t take long till I heard my name called across the room from someone who I met the previous Monday, and then the next Monday another person or two, until I, myself, got excited to see my new friends come Monday. 

When the pandemic really hit Toronto in March, The Dale never closed. The Dale became the only place I went for many weeks and it was a blessing to have one thing that I could count on. I know many of our folks in the community felt the same, after many spaces they frequently visited were forced to shut down, except for The Dale. During this time I felt excited to tell people “We’re still here!” because I wanted to share that good news, because it was such good news to me. 

It felt really hard first settling back into Toronto. And sad when the border closed and I couldn’t visit my fiance and friends. And confusing trying to plan a wedding when so many parts of it were canceled. And I feel sad again now trying to celebrate Christmas in a lockdown. But, through it all I feel grateful for The Dale. I know that God has a plan for me being at The Dale, just as I have watched Him at work this past year putting The Dale in my life when I needed it. I was excited for what I could get done for The Dale, but I am always humbled by the countless things The Dale does for me.

Below are a few of the special memories made during my first year with The Dale:

I got to be a part of some fun Christmas festivities (2019)

Experienced my first February Feast

Had to start wearing a mask at work

I got work with some really awesome people

Shared some lovely visits

And now we’re celebrating new wheels!

Being at The Dale would not be possible without my faithful supporters. So THANK YOU for being on this journey with me!!

Hello from Quarantine Again

This year just keeps getting crazier, am I right?

On top of all things happening, I got married just a few days ago. Although it is one of the worst years for a wedding, this event has been in the works since before the chaos and my heart couldn’t handle the long distance anymore (16 months ah).

Though it was not the wedding we originally planned, it was the most beautiful day. Due to Covid we had to shrink the number of people at our wedding, therefore I only had a handful of family and friends from my side. It was amazing to see this small group pull together this wedding, as well as Grant’s community, which really helped me get to know them more. Everything that happened on October 12th was a miracle- especially that my parents flew in from Canada and got home safe and healthy. I can’t even express how thankful I am for the people in my life. Many people here in Canada or overseas who couldn’t come to the wedding because of Covid supported me by sending encouraging messages, giving gifts for our new little home, checking in, praying, etc. Even though they could not come to the wedding, I felt surrounded by their love.

Being a part of The Dale has never ceased to remind me of the importance of community, and since then I’ve recognized it more clearly. Back when Covid first began, The Dale started to make phone calls frequently to check in with the community and to have a chat since we couldn’t see each other face to face. Since starting my quarantine this week, because of the travel for my wedding (on day 4), now I’ve been receiving phone calls from The Dale community checking in on me. It’s really cool to be a part of a community that looks out for each other so much. One friend said, “I’ll call you again soon so you don’t get lonely.” 

This month I saw the power of prayer at work. I felt surrounded by community deeper than I have ever felt in my entire life. The Bible passage that we had in our wedding ceremony, which was recommended to me by a friend at The Dale, was 1 John 4:7-16. This passage talks about how God is love, and how the two are one in the same. In this situation, when I felt the overwhelming love from my community, I saw that passage to be true- I felt God in and around all of the things that were going on through the love that was shown.

Feeling like a Sponge

I’ve been at the Dale for almost 10 months now. It seems like time is flying, but when I look back at where I started, a lot has happened since then. I have found that throughout these months I’ve been like a sponge soaking up everything around me.

I have been taking in the neighbourhood of Parkdale, learning about its history, all of the businesses here (and those that used to be here), and the dynamic of its streets. Everytime we go on a walk, I try to take it all in. Exploring the neighbourhood and visiting people has helped me get to know the street names and feel out the vibe of each corner and pocket. I’ve learned that Coffee Time was the place to sit and chat, before it got transformed into a Popeyes; that the “Milky Way” is a great alley to take a short cut; that one of the parkettes is a beautiful spot to sit and have a chat; and that church steps are always available for hanging out with friends. 

I have also been soaking up the experience and wisdom of my lovely co-workers. The way they understand ministry, their outlook on global injustice, and how they love others. Often I feel like I’m taking it all in, figuring out what it means to be a part of a church without walls, and am amazed at the decisions they make based on their many years of experience. 

I have been getting to know the community, so many names and faces were intimidating to me at first. When I first joined The Dale, on my bus ride home at the end of the day, I would go over names in my head trying to memorize them. Now I feel like I have gotten to meet and know so many faces, and I feel blessed getting to call several people my friends. I’ve also been learning so much from those friends as I get to hear all sorts of stories. From endless lessons on music, to tips on the best shops in the neighbourhood, and very often I receive life advice from friends looking out for me since I am a young adult. 

It’s been such a growing experience to be a part of The Dale, and I feel blessed for the opportunity. Each part and each day is a gift from God. Although the majority of my time with The Dale has been during a dramatic change because of Covid, there is still so much to take in. I am a slow learner, but I am constantly trying to see the world with new eyes as I approach what it means to be a part of this community, soaking it all up like a sponge. 

I am still pretty far from my fundraising goal! If you would like to financially partner with me in this ministry, you can donate with the button below and specify in the comment box that you would like to support me. Feel free to reach out if you would like more information or would just like to chat.

A Glimpse Into our Kitchen

I never knew that I should have gone to cooking school before working at The Dale, but I’ve been learning a lot! I thought I would share a glimpse into what our kitchen looks like before a meal begins on Monday or Thursday.

Feeding a lot of people, means cooking in large portions. Very large!

Sometimes that looks like breakfast bowls that cover every table space in the kitchen.

Sometimes that looks like turning thirty roast chickens into a big bowl of chicken salad.

And lots of beautiful fresh bread that was donated from a bakery to put all the chicken salad on. (plus the chicken salad had bacon bits, celery, and lime- it was so tasty!)

Sometimes it looks like chopping up hundreds of eggs for eggs salad sandwiches.

It shocked me how much mayo that took (I’ve been learning a lot).

All the food seen in these photos has been a blessing. It is truly amazing to see the donations that come from such a vast variety of people; from individuals who buy supplies or collect from their community to shops and local restaurants to other churches and organizations. It goes to show that despite the challenges of Covid-19, the generosity is even greater. 

Our Friend John

Last week, we lost our good friend John.

The Dale is no stranger to loss. I’ve been at three memorials already and have heard many stories of beloved friends who passed away years ago. 

This was the first goodbye in Parkdale that I’ve said to someone I knew well, someone whom I considered a friend. I didn’t know John for very long but, as anyone who’s met him would say, he was a kind hearted soul.

These are some things that I learned about John, in my short time of knowing him:

John always wore a smile. I almost cannot picture him without a smile. He was always so positive and always had something good to say. His smile was contagious and so was his joy.

John made people feel special. Even when I was just new to The Dale in December, he knew my name. He would greet me every time by name and look at me with eyes that were listening, like a good friend would.

John was very selfless. John always checked on how others were doing, including myself. I never heard him complain, nor saw him get angry, but instead he would bring a presence of peace and calm. 

John was known for his amazingly long dreadlocks, which had to be tied because they were longer than he was. He loved to talk about his dogs and cared for them. He was constantly cooking food for other people, and one time during a night outreach I got to sample some bacon he had just cooked for dinner at another drop-in. 

Though I did not know John for very long, I am grateful for the chance to have met him and call him friend. The parkette by the Health Center won’t be the same without him, as he would often be seen hanging out there. 

I will miss you, John.

In Better Hands

During this pandemic I’m learning that I have very little control over my life, and maybe you are experiencing this too.

Many would say we live in a generation of instant gratification. With our phones always at our fingertips, the list of things we can get instantly is massive compared to the generations before us; from looking up information on google, ordering food to our door, booking a flight, checking what the weather is across the world, streaming our favourite movie, etc. 

Now that this pandemic has swept over the world, we’ve gone into shock over the loss of control that we used to have. Our freedom is shrinking without being able to enjoy going out to eat, summer plans being canceled, and no more birthday celebrations. For some, hard things have been canceled or pushed such as funerals, doctors appointments, and visiting family/friends in nursing homes and hospitals. I have been experiencing some of these hard things these past two months.

At the Dale, within the past few weeks, we’ve said goodbye to two people who have passed away in Parkdale. It’s difficult not being able to have a memorial service for the community to gather and remember those lives.

My grandmas are both live in a nursing home and are currently not allowed to leave and not allowed any guests. It’s been a long time and I worry about them.

A friend of ours from the community has recently gone into hospital and we are not allowed to see him. And, I’m sure he is missing being able to have visitors.

My wedding is booked for this October but we have no idea where the world will be with this pandemic in the fall. So the stress of the possibility of canceling is on my mind. Also, my fiance, Grant, is currently in the states and there is no definite date of when the border will open and I will see him again.

So much is out of my hands and heavy on my mind, but what comforts me is that the Lord knows. It is in His hands. Throughout all of this, there have been many blessings popping up that surprise me; joys big and small that all remind me that God is moving.

Here are just some of these blessings from the Lord that I am excited to share with you:

We just discovered some folks that we met, who were living in tents, got housed! We got worried when we saw a bunch of workers and trucks in the area but got the good news that they have been given a home.

The Dale runs on donations- and during this pandemic I have been amazed by the generosity of people. Every Monday we have been able to serve prepared meals from a restaurant and distribute bags of fresh groceries. Baked goods come every week from thoughtful bakers for some dessert to go with our meals. Fun and fashionable hand sewn face masks keep being delivered from amazing sewers. A variety of toiletries, socks, and clothing comes from a combination of donors including a shop that dropped off boxes of t-shirts by surprise.

The Dale is still able to keep running and none of the staff have gotten sick which is a huge blessing!

Since we cannot have long chats with people at the drop-ins like we used to, we have turned to calling our friends on the phone. These chats have been really special and I feel like they are connecting people in new ways!

Even though I am losing control over the future and feeling overwhelmed by the unknown, these blessings remind me that God is in control. Amidst the loss, He is providing, and PRAISE God for that! 

I am still pretty far from my fundraising goal! If you would like to financially partner with me in this ministry, you can donate on https://www.thedale.org/donate/ and specify in the comment box that you would like to support me. Feel free to reach out if you would like more information or would just like to chat.

Easter Sunday!

Happy Easter Sunday everyone!

I know this isn’t quite the Easter you imagined. It’s hard for many not to be allowed to gather with family and/or friends, and not be able to attend a service with your church congregation. Though these are challenging times, we have such a great reason to celebrate. We remember the greatest sacrifice in history, when Jesus died, taking the sins of the world.

1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”

This death, that we remember on Good Friday, was not permanent! Three days later, a miracle was witnessed.

Matthew 28:5-6 “The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”

He is risen! Praise the Lord that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are wiped clean of our sins. We are welcomed into a relationship with God, now and for eternity.

Romans 10:9 “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Although there is a sadness in Easter being different this year, I actually believe it is perfect timing. We need hope at a time like this, and what greater hope is there than in Jesus? What a perfect time to see social media filled with verses of hope instead of discouraging news reports, to maybe receive a text or call wishing joy, and to turn to the parts of scripture that remind us that we need not worry for we are saved.

I hope and pray you all have a good Easter!

The Dale Carries On

The government has called the city to shut down (malls closings, churches locking their doors, playgrounds taped up, tables put away in restaurants, etc.) but The Dale has been making some adjustments to keep going, amidst the closures, following the new rules that pop up day to day.

Many have asked me what The Dale has been doing during the pandemic. Since this has been my first week back, after self-isolating, this is how it went:

Monday still involved lunch, but instead they were packed in to-go boxes. Then, through Second Harvest and the generous donations of many, we got to give out full bags of fresh groceries.

Tuesday we had our usual staff meeting, but this time we met in a video call from our homes and followed that with admin stuff on our own. Wednesday we worked as a team creating our breakfast which we served on Thursday in the morning; all while keeping the safe distance required.

It’s quite a change, especially for a group that loves to hug. 

Going downtown on my first day (Monday), I had no idea what to expect. Friends have been asking me how the community was doing and I never knew what to say since I hadn’t been there myself. Honestly I was pleasantly surprised with what I heard from the people that came throughout the lunch. It’s not a question that this is a hard time, I do worry about many who struggle with the isolation. Drop-in centers throughout the city are closing or changing, grocery stores are limited, and freedom is lost. But nonetheless, I felt greeted with a strong positivity that caught me off guard. 

I was expecting people to be frustrated with the change in how we serve food, but I was met with gratitude. I was surprised by how many people had something encouraging to say. One gentleman said, “It sucks, but we’re working together and we’re going to make it.”

I felt hopeful talking to people, which was a stark contrast compared to how I had been feeling when I was stuck at home watching the news. Going outside seemed scary, but instead of devastation I saw hope. I saw people sharing what little they had, neighbours helping neighbours, air hugs, and the body of Christ coming together.

Thoughts From Isolation

So I am currently self-isolating for 14 days due to my trip out of the country.

Sunday I journeyed through the Orlando airport security, sat in a completely full airplane, and got temporarily stranded in the Toronto airport- all with this fear in the back of my mind from the panic I’ve read on social media. I didn’t Lysol my seat down like most were on the plane, but I got worried that maybe I should. All around me, everyone’s panic started to make me feel like I should also panic, but I guess that’s how the toilet paper frenzy started; panic feeding panic.

I’m learning that there is a balance. Before I was living like it was not real, ignoring all the warnings- but that could put others at risk. I also don’t want to be too extreme about it, running away from all my friends and family like they have the plague- because we’ll eventually all get hurt from the loneliness. 

I am fortunate to have a home to isolate in and a family to isolate with. But, though the news is telling us to stay inside, not everyone in our community at Parkdale is able to do that. Some people don’t have families and need to get out to be with their friends whom they consider family. Others have no physical home to go inside to or their home isn’t a safe place. Many have lost their most comfortable spaces, with the closing of the Tim Hortons, A&W, the library, etc, in which they might consider to be their living rooms.

Unfortunately I have not been able to join The Dale this week due to my isolation, but I’m so proud of my team and all they’ve been doing! It breaks my heart to think of what our community (and many others in Toronto who are street involved) are going through. These times seem to emphasize the class distinctions at an even greater degree. Instead of fearing the stranger on the street, maybe we can learn from them. They know what it’s like to not have enough of what they need. They know what it looks like to share in the midst of poverty.

I hope that our city can learn to maintain a balance of being cautious, while still checking in with our friends and neighbours. I hope that we can figure out how to take care of ourselves without taking all the products off the shelf so that others can have some too.

Today I read Psalm 145. It was so encouraging to read about how great the Lord is and how worthy of praise. Since we are in this time of fear and unknown, I want to share a list of some of the amazing truths of God that I found in this chapter. You may have heard them all before, but they were such a comforting reminder to me.

His greatness we cannot fathom. (v. 3)

He is gracious and compassionate. (v. 8)

He is rich in love. (v. 8)

The Lord is good to all. (v. 9)

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. (v. 13)

We can trust the Lord in all He promises. (v. 13)

He upholds all who fall. (v. 14)

He provides for our physical needs at the proper time. (v. 15)

All His ways are righteous and faithful. (v. 17)

He is near those who call. (v. 18)

He hears our cry. (v. 19)

The Lord will keep us. (v. 20)

The Lord hears our cry, so please continue to pray for this city and the world as they figure out how to handle this outbreak. Please also pray for my amazing co-workers at The Dale who are still out there working, preparing food, and checking in with people.

If you would like to know more about The Dale, check out our website: thedale.org

February Joy

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”  Psalm 28:7

I have recently been reading from the Psalms. I wanted to read another book of the Bible, but during this time of my life, I found people continuously directing me back to the Psalms. To be honest, Psalms was the last book of the Bible that I would turn to or study. I wanted stories and something “deeper,” but I discovered I was missing out on the power they hold.

Though some days at The Dale can be a little wild, each day also never fails to bring its moments of joy. The longer I’m here the more and more I am feeling a part of this family, and as a result, doing life together feels less like a job and more like a blessing.

Throughout the past few months, I honestly have been struggling with anxiety. It’s frustrating, but there is a lot that God teaches me every time I go through these seasons, and nevertheless, He was doing it again. One Monday this month at The Dale, I ended up having a long chat with a friend from the community. We ended up talking about healing, which is something that I often think about as I read about it in the Bible yet do not encounter it in the same way in my life. I ended up telling her about my struggle with anxiety and right then and there she prayed for healing. I felt so encouraged, my eyes got watery. I had never experienced anyone do that to me, and it brought so much joy in my heart.

After this prayer, I felt ready for anything. I knew times of anxiety would continue to come but I also felt a new confidence that God would take care of me. Since then, each day I try to focus on the many joys around me, rather than the things making life feel heavy.

Here are just two of the many joys that I’ve been experiencing since then.

Last week we had one of our biggest events of the year- and that is the February Feast! The February Feast is a big turkey dinner, similar to one you would see happening around Thanksgiving or Christmas. The Dale originally decided to do their big dinner this month because of the abundance of dinners already taking place during those holiday months, and since February can be a slow and difficult month, it brings something to look forward to! 

This was the first one I’ve ever experienced and it was something special. We had an open mic, which gave us the privilege to hear a variety of music, poems, and stories. There was also a community art piece being painted at one of the tables. It felt like such a joyous time, with people hanging out all around the room, and staying late to hear all of the performances. I felt thankful to get to sit and enjoy the night without rushing to clean up. I loved chatting with friends and seeing them perform their songs I’ve heard them tell me a lot about.

This week, as you may already know, is the beginning of lent. For Shrove Tuesday (or as some call it- Pancake Day), some of The Dale church gathered together to go to another church in a nearby neighbourhood to celebrate. I felt so much joy in getting the chance to sit at a long table together, be served some delicious pancakes, and spend time with friends. It was a different experience to not be involved in preparing the meal, but it was freeing to enjoy fellowship as a group.

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19

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