Giving thanks to Good Shepherd Centre

  • October 17, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - James Douglas calls himself one of the Good Shepherd Centre’s success stories, and it’s hard to argue with the man.

More than three years ago he arrived in Toronto with too much money in his wallet and a thirst much deeper than his pockets. The money was from an insurance settlement. He had left Los Angeles looking for a connection with his family, hoping for a new start. What he found was the downtown bars and soon realized just trading Toronto for Los Angeles wasn’t going to change his life. He had been drinking long enough to know it was the one constant.
He sought out the Good Shepherd and the programs they offered.

Douglas has been sober three years. The former machinist now works in sales for an employment agency.

Though he doesn’t get back to the Queen Street centre to volunteer as often as he would like, he makes sure he’s there at Christmas and Thanksgiving. This Thanksgiving Day Douglas was happy to see that so few of the addicts and alcoholics he had known three years ago were still churning through the system. He took it as a sign that the programs at the Good Shepherd Centre work.

Douglas was part of a team of more than 60 volunteers who served 1,400 Thanksgiving dinners at the Good Shepherd Centre Oct. 13.

Sr. Joan Stafford oversaw the teeming dining room the day before the federal vote and noted that the people lining up for Thanksgiving dinner at the Good Shepherd Centre never made it on the national political agenda during the campaign. For Christians, however, the poor are always on the agenda.

“They are our brothers and sisters. It’s the command of Jesus,” she said.

Through September this year the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, staff and volunteers served an average of 947 meals a day, an increase of about 200 a day over the last year.

Many of the patrons aren’t necessarily homeless, but they’re showing up at the Good Shepherd because they can’t afford to buy groceries and cook on they’re own.

“It’s an overall sign of increasing poverty,” said Good Shepherd assistant executive director Aklilu Wendaferew.

The signs aren’t just at the Good Shepherd Centre. The Daily Bread Food Bank’s annual Vital Signs report shows a 7.4-per-cent increase in food bank visits in the Greater Toronto Area to 799,315 this year. Almost half of food bank users claim they’ve gone a day without food. A third (34 per cent) of food bank clients are children.

Fr. Vaughan Quinn has been ministering in shelters and soup kitchens since he stumbled into inner city ministry in Detroit in the 1960s. It’s not getting easier and it’s not getting better, Quinn said. But it’s still the work the octogenarian priest with a bad hip feels compelled to do.

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