“I needed some help and you gathered here with me”
The Gathering Place opened its doors in 1994 and offers services to people who are homeless or live in less than desirable housing conditions, are often unemployed or do not have adequate social supports. The goal is to foster among Guests independence, self-respect and dignity. While those who come for programs and services now live in St. John’s, many have come from across Newfoundland and Labrador and some from outside the province.
Founded by the Presentation Sisters and the Sisters of Mercy in response to the needs of those coming to their doors seeking food, the Gathering Place now provides many programs and services including meals, foot care, a clothing supply boutique and hair care service. Through collaboration with other agencies, guests of Gathering Place have access to housing experts, nurses and social workers. Guests can avail of advocacy, literacy and computer programs. Inner-city churches have assisted the venture since its beginning, and many other service organizations, church groups, foundations, corporations and individuals make financial and in-kind donations towards the ongoing operation.
The Gathering Place is housed in the former Mercy Convent School, located in the heart of St. John’s. It is a registered charity governed by a Board of Directors with members from the Leadership Teams of the two congregations and from the community at large. The programs and services are offered through a volunteer-driven operation led by a leadership team (an administrator and two Sister co-directors) and two employed staff members. More than 150 volunteers ensure that programs and services are consistently available.
“We are on the move!!!”
In late 2010, the Board of Directors led a one-year strategic planning process to assess the quality of work being done at The Gathering Place and to determine whether the ministry was still needed. Advice was sought from guests, volunteers and representatives from many agencies interfacing with and related to concern for the Guests. Throughout the consultation process, there was unfailing support for the work, a conviction The Gathering Place provides an essential service which must be maintained. The Gathering Place was encouraged to do “more of the same” and to enhance programs where possible. It was strongly recommended that renovations to the facility would broaden the range of services provided and ensure continuation into the future.
To facilitate the renovations project begun in September 2012, programs were relocated to The Lantern, a spirituality centre owned by the Presentation Sisters near The Gathering Place. Despite limitations of space there, many programs continued to be available to the Guests. A fundraising campaign to finance the complete renovation of the facility was initiated with a goal of $7,000,000 ($5M for renovations and $2M for endowment). To date, the campaign has reached the $5.6M mark thanks to the donations and efforts of many corporate, community and church groups and individuals as well as municipal, provincial and federal governments. Eco-friendly and energy-efficient guidelines were adhered to in developing an accessible, safe and versatile facility.
Programs and Services
The programs and services of The Gathering Place returned to the totally renovated and enlarged space in September 2014. The re-designed facility better meets the needs of the Guests. Increased capacity for noon meal and breakfast programs accommodates the ever-increasing numbers of people who are in need of food. A laundry room has been added, and showering facilities will help those who experience restricted access to showers in their boarding houses. There are quiet spaces where guests can read, listen to music and think. An elevator makes all areas fully accessible. A clothing supply program provides shoes, clothing and household items. Volunteer seamstresses help guests with minor repairs and adjustments to clothing. Computers and computer training are available to allow guests to access many government services available online only. Education and training in health and wellness are offered. A mailroom gives guests a fixed address where they can receive correspondence. Programs such as art, jewellery-making and crafts not only develop creative talents but may be a source of a little pocket money for the artists and artisans.
Deep gratitude is extended to the Presentation Sisters, the Sisters of Mercy, the Board of Directors, the Project Team, the Gift Team, the project manager, contractors, tradespersons and donors (government, corporate and personal) for making this venture possible. Special thanks go to the Guests who have been patient and understanding with the ongoing renovations and to the staff and volunteers who have continued to serve guests throughout these two years of transition.
We ask God’s blessing as we look forward to moving back to new space and enhanced programs. We pray that all involved will be energized and excited by the potential to make even greater things happen at The Gathering Place!
Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/gatheringstjohns . Visit our website at www.gatheringstjohns.ca . Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org . Or call us at 1-709-753-2351.