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The Blessing Centre continues to serve ‘miracles’ daily

Community ProfileThe Blessing Centre continues to serve ‘miracles’ daily

For over 40 years, the Blessing Centre has been providing disadvantaged and underprivileged people in the community with hot meals and a place to connect with others and be whole.  

Terry Howard, who is the Board Chair, explained how the centre started.

“It started through The 700 Club which is a Christian TV show. They tried to set up these soup kitchens across North America and Canada, and they called it Operations Blessing. Eventually, they decided that they didn’t want to manage that any longer [and] looked locally to see if they could find someone who would take it over which would end up being Dave Carroll (who is currently a pastor at the Freedom House.) It’s manned by volunteers from many denominations, and it’s run by a board of directors that’s selected out of these many denominations,” explained Howard.

Many individuals, families, and organizations across Brantford and Brant County volunteer at the Blessing Centre and in 2023 alone contributed over 10,000 hours volunteered. There are around 15 churches that support the centre along with countless other organizations. Photo courtesy The Blessing Centre.

Howard, as a volunteer, quickly saw the importance of the Blessing Centre in the Brantford community.

“I was invited to come and volunteer. I went down to just serve coffee [and it didn’t] take very long before I saw the importance of serving the community [and] being involved in this miracle happening every day. We served over 51,000 meals [last year] with 120 volunteers helping,” Howard continued. “It’s a multi-faceted organization…we provide hot meals, and also groceries. We also do a fair amount of food rescue around the city, [where] different organizations, grocery stores, bakeries, and even a couple of sweet shops call us up to donate food that’s too good to throw away and it’s not quite good enough to sell.”

Many churches participate in volunteering their time to give food throughout the year at The Blessing Centre. The Jersey Baptist Church’s Youth Group (14 children in total) volunteered their time during a day in December 2023. Photo courtesy The Blessing Centre.

However, Howard maintains the key is how seamlessly many of the churches in the community have come together to make the centre a beacon of hope in Brantford.

“It’s primarily run by around 15 different churches… and other organizations also help. Since we’re operating 365 days a year, we started the year with about 300 days already committed [to the churches and other organizations to volunteer.] So, over the year, we have to come up with another 60 [and eventually] organizations or groups will take a day to volunteer and serve,” continued Howard. “As chairman, I get to see all these different groups, and they all care and they want to be involved. And this is really about giving a helping hand to people who need it. We have addicts, single moms, retired people as well as international students with many of them being wounded people. They’re not wounded physically; they’re wounded mentally or emotionally. So, you are forever embracing these people.”

The Blessing Centre is open 365 days a year and in 2023 alone, the Centre served over 50,000 meals. It counts the many volunteers that help out to serve and support the Centre and the community. Photo courtesy The Blessing Centre.

Along with helping with serving food, Howard said that the centre always looks at different ways to help people.

 “As an example, a couple wanted to get married [so] so we had a wedding for them at the centre…we’ve done birthday parties for kids whose moms don’t have enough money. We try to be everything that we can be [and] we’re locally funded by the same people that are from the individuals from the churches and from local business. We’re 100% funded by donations,” he said.

While many have volunteered and continue to donate their time at the centre (and even those they have returned to help as they once were in need); Howard highlights that everyone is there to help each other.

“The biggest thing holding people back, is they get a little bit panicked because they feel they don’t know how to cook for that many people. It’s not that difficult. We help everyone go through that; we work side by side with any group that wants to come in help…there’s always one of the board members there,” Howard explained. “We have what we call ‘client volunteers,’ where they’ve been serving by us, or they’ve been coming in aid and wanting help. We had some of them, who have gotten jobs and are now independent, come to volunteer. We love that…where circumstances have turned around for some of our guests and then they come to give back.”

Terry Howard, Chair of The Blessing Centre, is with Will Bouma, Member of Provincial Parliament for Brantford-Brant who donated six large boxes of reusable bags that were needed by the centre. Photo courtesy The Blessing Centre.

Although the Blessing Centre has served many meals throughout the years, they have also been serving hope in so many other ways. As Howard explains.

“It’s a mission to help those people who need comfort, who need encouragement, and lifting up. It’s not just about food, it’s about other things as well [and] trying to meet those needs where we can. Feeding people is pretty important [but] you don’t know how much it means to thank someone for coming and telling them how much we appreciate serving them and treating them as our guests,” concluded Howard.

The Blessing Centre receives many food donations from bakeries as well as grocery stores across the County. They also accept donations, which include hygiene products and clothing. Photo courtesy The Blessing Centre.

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