Community engagement is an important aspect of FAC and the Share team. Our desire is to build relationships and partnerships in Calgary in order to address needs, show love, and make a positive difference in our city.

When COVID-19 hit, everything was up in the air … Would we be able to serve others in this time? How could we if we had to be 2 metres apart?

Many jobs could move online – but what about those services that need to be given in person? All of a sudden, I had to weigh the cost of serving others and personal safety. This is not an easy task … especially when working with volunteers. The risk is high.

But God had a plan – and through the help of one of our local school partners something new formed.

Forced Pause

We believe all children should have access to food!

FAC has run a breakfast program in a local school for years to address the concern of food insecurity that children face each day in Calgary. We’ve been able to serve the kids and school 5 days a week in the school year. Volunteers love connecting with these students and great things have come from these relationships. Each summer FAC even sponsors kids from this school to go to Camp Chamisall, our denomination’s southern Alberta regional summer camp. This is a great program!

However, as you all know, COVID-19 meant Calgary schools closed – and so the breakfast program came to a screeching halt.

Now what?! Do we just hit pause and wait to regroup next year?

How could I let this program pause if we knew these kids weren’t getting enough food each day? Sadly, it took a pandemic for me to realize that our breakfast program wasn’t really meeting the need in the way it should.

All of a sudden I realized … What happens to these kids on the weekend? What happens when school shuts down? How had I missed this gap in the program before?!

But God knew I would face this crossroads.

Pivoting in the Gap

Our volunteer coordinator, Heidi Duncan, for the breakfast program quickly asked the school how we could get the breakfast supplies that were left over into the right hands. The school connected us with a local youth centre … which, if I’m being honest, I didn’t know existed. YCC opens their doors daily from 3:00-6:00 pm to all youth who need a safe and welcoming place to “be kids.” Ogden is an isolated, low-income community, with few resources and otherwise no after-school programs.

One thing led to another and I found myself meeting the director of the youth centre for the first time over the phone. And we were both concerned about the same thing: Who is feeding the kids now? She had a plan to address the need, but not the food resources to pull it off. FAC had Harvest Culinary Kitchen with no events to cater. So we said, “Let’s tackle this together.”

Literally, a bagged lunch program was formed over the weekend … and that Tuesday morning in March, FAC was supplying lunches to kids in Ogden through Youth Centres of Calgary.

At first I thought we would help with 200 lunches a week. Now we’re helping with 2000 lunches per week! Since we started on March 24 – we have been growing to meet the increasing need each week. Sites have been opened in Ogden, Forest Lawn, Dover, Rosscarrock/Shaganappi, and Penbrooke. The need in our city is great and we’re stepping in to be part of the solution, to make sure no child is without food support.

A New Thing

On an average day, I might have the blinders on and I may just plug away at the community opportunities that are before me. But in this season, God has allowed me to pick my head up and develop partnerships that might never have happened otherwise.

I’m hopeful that this partnership to bring lunches across Calgary will continue to address food insecurity over weekends and summers. The plan is bigger than I can see at this moment. But I know that God can do immeasurably more than I can ever ask or imagine.

We’ve also continued to grow our partnership with the Mustard Seed and the Calgary Food Bank. We’re now a site for both of these organizations and have become a referral agency to the Food Bank to better support our community and FAC. Our youth mission trip is pivoting to serve right here in our own city this summer; a week-long local Calgary mission trip was something I thought would take years to form but it is taking shape much more  quickly than I could have imagined.

This time is not being wasted – He is using it to bring about positive change and growth.

And that is so exciting! God is doing a new thing!

Briana Southerland serves as FAC’s Share Ministries Pastor in Calgary. Learn more about this new opportunity to serve kids in Calgary, or other points of community engagement here.

Want to Know More?

Here’s a bit more info about the bagged lunch program and how you can support it.

Grab-and-Go lunches, 7 days a week.

Kids and families can take a break from their day between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm 7 days a week and pick up a lunch. We follow all AHS guidelines and practice physical distancing at every stage of production and delivery.

To date, we have handed out 10,620 lunches.

How can you get involved?

Donate (drop-off at Deerfoot Campus east entrance):

  • Granola bars*
  • Individually packaged cookies* (example: Dad’s cookies)

*no nuts please

The cost of each lunch is $2.75 (not including the cost of labour) and it includes a sandwich, carrots, fruit, and a cookie. We’re planning to meet this need in Calgary until September 7, 2020, which is another 13 weeks of food distribution. At our current rate we are handing out 2000 meals per week. We need approximately $71,500 to meet our current needs until end of summer.

If we step in to help in additional communities this summer the cost is approximately $16,000 per additional site.

Any assistance you’re able to provide would be appreciated. Through volunteers, community partners, and generous donors we will continue to strive to meet the needs of kids and families during this tough time as long as it is feasible.

We know these are tough times, but maybe you’ll consider …

  • For the price of a Starbucks latte you can feed 2 kids
  • For the price of a men’s haircut you can feed 12 kids
  • A $500 donation can cover the cost of 181 bagged lunches

Any size donation makes a difference, and donations are tax receiptable! Here’s how you can donate to make a difference through FAC:

Give with credit card through our website to support using the COVID-19 fund line.

Cheques can be mailed or dropped off anytime in the secure mail slot located at the north entrance of the Deerfoot Campus (12345 40 Street SE, Calgary AB T2Z 4E6). Please make cheques payable to First Alliance Church and write COVID-19 Support on your envelope.

You can donate your empty bottles! First Alliance Church has partnered with SkipTheDepot. Learn more about how you can give to the COVID-19 fund through bottle donations.

Please contact Pastor Briana Southerland if you have questions about this opportunity, our church, or partnerships.