Growing Community in Prince George

Posted By Julia Buckingham
July 4, 2017

A garden in Prince George is helping a whole community take root.

In 2015 MCC received an incredible gift of two apartment buildings located in Prince George. MCC Legacy Trust was established to manage and operate the properties and MCC BC, along with Westwood church, and other community partners, came together to create a safe, sustainable community for people who struggle to find financially accessible housing.

The residents are a mix of students, seniors and young families, all looking for a place to call home. The apartments—119 in Park Village and 131 in Pine Glen—are being renovated by MCC Legacy Trust and an MCC staff member works on site to develop community programming that lives out the mission of MCC: caring for the whole person, making peace, and building strong, long-term relationships.

As MCC BC started to engage with the residents of these two buildings, one of the main concerns they faced was how isolated many of the residents were. As MCC Community Coordinator, Andrew Ardell, explained, “Because the rental units are month to month, there’s a lot of isolation and lots of transient people. There was nothing that united the community together because people just kept to themselves.”

After seeing the success of community gardens in other locations, Ardell talked to the residents about the possibility of building one at Park Village. He wanted to be sure that it was something they wanted to do and wasn’t something that was done to them. The garden was a communal effort from how it looked to what was planted. Several local businesses came on board with volunteers and supplies, and kids from the neighbourhood painted wooden animals that were attached to the sides of the garden boxes.

Children painted wooden animals to decorate the sides of the garden boxes. (MCC Photo/Andrew Ardell)
Children painted wooden animals to decorate the sides of the garden boxes. (MCC Photo/Andrew Ardell)

The garden is in a space about 40’ x 20’ with cherry trees, blueberries, strawberries, and six 8’ x 4’ garden boxes filled with herbs and every kind of vegetable that will grow in Prince George. Residents rotate watering duties. The families get to keep what they have grown and some of the food will be shared at a harvest party in the fall.

“Now people have ownership of where they live. They are looking after their apartments more, they’re picking up the garbage when they walk by because they’re working to grow this garden.” – Andrew Ardell

The garden also promotes healthy eating and there’s an after school program where kids are involved with taking care of the plants and learning about gardening, patience, and how things grow.

Before the garden was built many residents did not know their own neighbors. Now Ardell sees seniors going over to each other’s houses because they met in the garden. Parents often bring their kids to see what is growing and it has become a meeting place that unites the wider community around Park Village.

MCC always works to help empower the individual and Ardell says he has seen this happening firsthand in Prince George. “Now people have ownership of where they live. They are looking after their apartments more, they’re picking up the garbage when they walk by because they’re working to grow this garden.”

Working in the garden together has also built up a rapport between the residents and Ardell and others who work in the community, which has helped connect residents to other programs and resources.

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Residents gathered together to plant the garden on a sunny day in June. (MCC Photo/Andrew Ardell)

There are already plans for the garden to continue next year and it may expand to a second garden at the Pine Glen building as even more families want to participate.

The needs around the world are great, but we can make a difference. The innovative donation of revenue-generating assets is one more way you can respond to a world longing to be in right relationship with God, one another, and creation. We invite you to visit mcclegacy.ca to learn more about the work of MCC Legacy Trust.

If you’d like to learn more about starting a community garden in your area, you can connect with Andrew Ardell at andrewardell@mccbc.ca.


Kelowna Church Rallies for Refugees

Posted By Julia Buckingham
June 6, 2017

In September 2015, the horror of the Syrian refugee crisis was captured in a single image of a young boy on a beach. Alan Kurdi, the boy in the photograph, was just three years old when he lost his life trying to flee to safety. The image became a touch point for many. For Kelowna pastor Mike Penninga, it was a call to action.

As he thought about how his church could get involved in the plight of refugees, one thing became clear. “Either we can cry against what’s wrong or we can be a part of the solution,” he told MCC. “People want to help. They just need to know where to direct their help. We decided that as a church we were not just going to sponsor a refugee family, but that we would be a church that sponsors refugee families.”

Penninga’s church, Kelowna Gospel Fellowship, a congregation of 750 people in Kelowna BC, raised the funds necessary to sponsor a refugee family and contacted MCC to be their sponsoring agent. Kelowna Gospel Fellowship was paired with a refugee family but at the last minute the family had to withdraw. The process of bringing refugees to Canada can be long and complex. By April of 2017 they were still waiting.

“We decided that as a church we were not just going to sponsor a refugee family, but that we would be a church that sponsors refugee families.” – Pastor Mike Penninga

As they waited, Penninga and his team wondered if there was something more the church could do to help. He invited MCC Advancement Director, Scott Campbell, to come and speak to the congregation.

That’s when they heard about MCC’s relief kit program.

Relief kits are 20L buckets packed with supplies that help families whose lives have been disrupted by violence or disaster. The kits contain towels, soap, combs, toothbrushes, laundry soap and other necessities. Each kit costs between $50-$75 to assemble. With the help of individuals and groups, last year MCC shipped over 14,000 relief kits to Jordan, Syria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Lebanon, Ukraine and Serbia.

On April 23, 2017, Kelowna Gospel Fellowship launched a campaign to pack 150 relief kits – the same week they got word that the refugee family they are sponsoring will be arriving in Kelowna sometime this summer. As of today, Kelowna Gospel Fellowship has collected just over 200 relief kits!

Pastor Penninga said he was not surprised by his congregation’s generosity.

“We can do this,” he said. “It’s not overwhelming. We can be a part of a solution.”

A group from Kelowna Gospel Fellowship stands with their completed relief kits. (Photo/Mike Penninga)

If you, your church or group would like to host a relief kit drive, please contact Scott Campbell, Advancement Director at MCC BC at scottcampbell@mccbc.ca.

P.S. Be sure to follow us on Facebook to see more stories like this in your news feed!


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