Aaron’s Journey – Advent 2022
The scripture we follow is Matthew 25 35:40
Hello everyone. As we enter the Advent season our thoughts go to the birth of Jesus, and the reason for the season. Wishing all of you a blessed Christmas Season and all the best in the New Year.
Our story begins some 14 years ago. A young man named Aaron had been living on the streets of Calgary for several years. He had been sleeping rough and was heavily into his drug addiction.
He made a decision to get cleaned up and with the help of several people he went out to BC and attended treatment. He had been clean and sober for several months and living in Vancouver doing very well for himself. As Christmas was approaching, he wanted to come home to visit his folks. He was travelling back to Calgary with a friend, just days before Christmas, that year. Unfortunately, he was in a tragic car accident and never made it home.
His family was devastated and wanted to do something to honour Aaron. His folks started a project that they called Aaron’s Journey. They wanted him to be remembered and they wanted to give back to the community he was part of for so many years. The first few years they raised some money and contributed themselves and bought coffee cards and phone cards and handed them out in the homeless community just before Christmas, encouraging people to call home and make contact with family and loved ones.
From the first year, the project took off. As mom and dad, Clayton and AnnaMay, worked hard to increase the funds to increase what could be given away, our Recovery Ministry at Central United Church got involved and took this on as one of our missions. Backpacks were purchased and then stuffed with all sorts of items.
Fund raising events went on, including golf tournaments in the summer to raise money. Prior to the pandemic coming along we were filling and distributing over 400 backpacks stuffed full of socks, mitts, hats, toothbrushes, soap, and many other items that homeless people enjoyed getting in the cold weather.
In recent years we have four elderly women in a retirement community that knit scarves and head bands for Aaron’s Journey. They have knit over 1000 of them in the past year. One of the ladies is legally blind but her mission is to help us out. She says the knitting does her as much good as the scarves do for the homeless people who get them. Since the pandemic we have had to create new ways of finding items to stuff the back packs with, so the scarves and head bands are part of them. We acquire warm socks and toiletries as well. We have a friend who drives tour bus all summer and he has his passengers collect soaps and shampoos from the hotels and brings big bags of them to us when he returns from his travels. We have had other church groups collect and donate items for us.
This mission has now expanded to clothing. We run a clothing room from the church to which people donate gently used clothes. We have partnered with two groups of people who go out at night and check on homeless people sleeping rough. They take them changes of warm clothes and other items of necessity. We have been suppling a lot of the clothing.
We also have a selection of good suits for people who need a suit for job interviews and other occasions.
We also supply scarves and hat bands to the police cars servicing downtown, so they have some warm stuff to give out when needed. Also, there is a program call the DOAP team that works with addicts gets them into either an intox or a detox in our downtown. This a very busy group of people with limited resources. We also supply them with scarves and clothes when we have surplus.
This year we are distributing the backpacks on the 10 Dec 22 in the morning and inviting everyone to come back to the church to go through the clothing selections we have. We are setting up our dining room as a clothing outlet. Coffee and refreshments will be available as well as counseling, housing agencies and other support services.
Our mission to the homeless and recovery community is busy and on going. We pass on God’s radical, relentless and unconditional love to everyone we meet, and to all those who attend at our church. We welcome everyone without judgement and are happy that we are seen to be a safe place for our Indigenous brothers and sisters and members of the LGBTQ+ and two spirited communities to congregate.
I like to think if Jesus was here, he would feel comfortable hanging with all of us.
Thank you for asking us to share a bit about what we are doing. To assist this project, donations can be made through Central United Church at email@example.com Please mention Aaron’s Journey or the Recovery Ministry.
Rev Peter Sheridan
Recovery and Prison Ministry, Calgary, AB