A Week in the Life

I thought I would take you all on a little virtual journey, “a week in the life” if you will. Now that I have been back at work for a few months and the hectic swirl of the Christmas season has come and gone, I feel like I have my bearings enough. Going back to work after maternity leave was hard enough, let alone with a whole change in the way my work life looked as I knew it. I think I am finally settling into our “new normal” (anyone else hate that phrase now??) and would love to take you along.

There is some debate as to whether a week starts on a Sunday or a Monday. In my head, it’s a Monday. We meet up at our room in the basement of a church, what has been our HQ since the pandemic began and we needed a place to keep our stuff and prepare meals. We are so grateful to our community partners who have always been generous with space towards us and our folks. First step – check in. We sit together as a team and talk about how we are and we pray for each other. What a beautiful gift. After that, we get super busy. Opening bags, distributing snacks into said bags, and later on the frozen meals prepared by Second Harvest. About 90 bags are prepped, along with 10 warm meals. At 12:45, we are moving all the meals up and outside where our community is waiting in line 6ft apart. We give lunch to go at 1pm, and try to connect with people in line from a safe and masked distance. What a difference from our communal meals before Covid – they are missed!

The line.

Tuesday morning, we meet over WhatsApp video chat for our weekly staff meeting! We become 4 little squares on a phone – what times! I miss our coffee shop meetings at the cozy Rustic Cosmo. We discuss all things Dale, and end with a prayer. A beautiful way to start the day. The rest of the day includes admin work and fundraising – reaching out to all of those who make our work possible and partner with us in a variety of ways. We love connecting with you!

Staff meeting!

Wednesday is meal prep and outreach day. While I am home with Charlotte, the girls prep 45 or more breakfast sandwiches to go inside brown paper bags, along with a fruit or muffins and a juice box! After breakfast is ready, they hit the road either by foot or in our new van (name yet to be determined). Along Queen Street is where we frequent most, up and down the length of Parkdale chatting with our friends and some strangers. We usually bring socks, snacks, drinks, and winter gear to have practical items to give. But the main goal is to meet people where they are at and connect in a different space. Doing outreach is one of my favourite parts of my job, and a skill I am always working to be better at. It can be hard for a shy person like me!

Our new outreach van

Thursday we meet back at The Dale HQ in the morning and bring the pre-made breakfasts up and outside. They are given out again to our friends who respectfully form a line outside. We are so grateful that this has been very maintainable in terms of keeping everyone safe. While we miss sitting around a table, we are so glad to see our friends mask to mask and connect a couple times a week. After breakfast has been given, we usually disperse to do different forms of outreach. Whether that be going for another walk, having a meeting with each other, tidying up our room or storage unit, or dropping groceries to someone’s door there is never a shortage of things to do!

Breakfast before it’s made into sandwiches!

Friday is a day of rest – our Sabbath! We take this very seriously, and are glad for the ways we can each find a day or moment of rest as our home life rhythm allows.

Finally, we reach Sunday! Usually some combination of us collects the Second Harvest delivery in the morning. We get all 100 meals we need for Monday from SH; they are all safely cooked and packaged by volunteers. We also usually get fruit and snacks to give out throughout the week, and if we are really lucky – the eggs used to make breakfast! We have always been so grateful to partner with Second Harvest even before Covid times. We would have a hard time functioning without them! After this, we do a variety of things depending on the weather and COVID restrictions. All which have included an outside small church service sitting 6ft apart, or outreach around the neighbourhood.

We are always finding ways to stay true to who we are as an organization and community. Despite having to pivot multiple times a month, week, or day to meet Covid restrictions and stay safe, we are doing our best and only by and for the glory of God. We are grateful to all those who partner with us – we wouldn’t be The Dale without you.

Thanks for coming along in a week with me! I wish you could all be a fly on the wall of my week in real life and see how COOL my job is. But this will have to do! Peace to you this week as you go about your routines. I am grateful to have you in my life!

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this work means inviting others into my journey of ministry – prayerfully and financially. If you would like to support the work that I do at The Dale, I would love to chat. Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com

Gifts from God.

On Monday we gathered outside as we do these days in a safe and masked fashion to serve meals to-go and connect with our friends as they wait in line 6ft apart. It was our first Monday back since we took our Christmas break. With the weather being cold and damp these days and the lockdown continuing, we weren’t sure how many folks we would see. However as it goes, the line stretched back far down the road and around the corner. We had some leftover goodies from Christmas, some donated Gatorade, and a meal to give in a clear bag, along with some new hats and hot chocolate as people waited in line.

A lot of time on a Monday, whatever we are able to put in a bag to give and hand out in line is only made possible because we have been given much. The meals come from Second Harvest and we get 100 of them to give. The snacks and goodies are a mix of Second Harvest donated snacks and items people buy for us that they know we need, such as the Gatorade. The hats, PPE, socks, hot chocolate – all bought with money we have been given or donated by churches who have made or purchased them for us. Even down to the plastic bags… we put out a call on social media one day when we were running low and received literally thousands of bags, some still coming in to this day.

In the past few weeks, our friends in community have reached out to us with requests. One for a DVD player and one for a TV. These folks either live alone or are feeling isolated in their place. For a lot of people right now, isolation is very difficult. When you don’t have the means to be able to FaceTime, zoom, or chat over video… days can feel long and lonely. TV and movies help ease that slightly, so when our friends reached out in need, Erinn put out a call for the items requested and was given what we needed within minutes. People shared the posts, prayed, kept eyes out, and gave what the had for someone they didn’t know. In some cases, we got multiples.

Last year with COVID causing lockdowns and stay home orders, a lot of people’s work lives shifted resulting in a financial shift. I think we all expected the year to be a little scarce in terms of being able to provide what we need for our community and meals. As you know, The Dale functions monetarily through people’s financial gifts. Instead of ending the year in scarcity, we actually ended with plenty – many winter items to give, money to buy things for the community and outreach, a new van for outreach, and much more.

I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging… I am no stranger to the grief that is present in many people right now. Sometimes it feels like the darkness is looming. However, we often start our days as a team in check in and prayer, and we feel so grateful for the provision from God and those He works through. We have been given so, so much. More than we ever thought possible. We pray daily that we would use what we have with wisdom and grace, that it would help reduce some of the weight our folks feel, that we could be the hands and feet of God in Parkdale, and that we would be good stewards of what we have.

As we were ending our time outside together on Monday, a man came up to us and thanked us abundantly for the meal, for being there continually, and for showing up. He said, “I hope COVID ends soon. We need to be together, not apart. This is hard…. but God knows.” He thanked us again and left, and I definitely did not have dry eyes. This has been a hard time. There are many aches in people which are presenting in a variety of ways. Gathering outside is so different for us and really hard some days in the cold and rain. But God knows. He sees us and He is blessing us. And because of that we can be present to our friends and community and continue to show up when it’s hard. The love and thanks we get back is totally not why we do any of this. We only do it for His glory. But when our hearts are touched I think it’s a little gift from God saying, “I know. Keep going.” Thank YOU all for being apart of that in many ways. We are blessed.

With peace this week…

I am a community worker at The Dale Ministries. For me, doing this work means inviting others into my journey of ministry – prayerfully and financially. If you would like to support the work that I do at The Dale, I would love to chat. Please email me at meagan.gillard@gmail.com