WINCHESTER – More than 200 people took “A Walk Down Memory Lane” with the House of Lazarus (HOL) during the mission’s 35th anniversary celebration on Sept. 23.
“Tonight, we celebrate our community who for 35 years have supported House of Lazarus in the work that we do,” HOL executive director Cathy Ashby said. “We celebrate our donors, our volunteers, local businesses, community partners, customers, board members, and our employees who all play a role in keeping our mission moving forward, helping many along the way.”
The event was held at the Joel Steele Community Centre at the Sam Ault Arena in Winchester. In addition to dinner and dancing, the evening included a few speeches, a keynote speaker, and a surprise presentation from Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry MP Eric Duncan.
“As we took our walk down memory lane, I learned that the community needs that started this ministry 35 years ago, unfortunately are still present today. Thirty-five years ago, people in our neighbourhood were hungry and present day, there are still people in our neighbourhood who are hungry,” Ashby said. “This year, food bank usage is up 41 per cent. Today, 40 per cent of our food bank clients are telling us they’re going whole days each month without eating.”
While the evening was a celebration applauding the efforts of countless people – staff, volunteers, community members, and donors – it was also an opportunity to fundraise for much-needed dollars to ensure the continuation of the work being done. The Sept. 23 event drew in more than $4,000 which will help the non-profit, as it’s not government funded and relies on thrift store sales, donations, and grants.
“In addition to the food bank programs, we’ve added programs such as Operation Backpack where we’re giving 189 children a week of food to eat over the weekend, we’re serving 80 to 100 meals each week at our takeout meal program, we’re offering a free breakfast for people who come to our drop-in centres – all these things are necessary to help fill the need,” Ashby said.
The highlight of the evening was HOL founder Rev. Allen Tysick, who made his way back to Ontario to speak at the milestone event. Now a resident of British Columbia, Tysick fondly reminisced about his days in Dundas County, including sharing memories about some of the many people who helped him in the early days of establishing his social ministry.
“Lord, how do I help the community have a new vision of church? Not a formal church of worship, but rather a church that lives out the social gospel; where all are welcome regardless of gender, sexuality, colour, race, or faith. An old Methodist concept where we reach out beyond ourselves rather than putting ourselves at the centre of the church,” Tysick read from the diary he kept in HOL’s early days. He continued, saying, “We tried to create a vision where charity was there, but it was led by justice. Food hampers were needed back then, of course. While we strived to build education and dignity among the people, hampers were not to be the centre of the House of Lazarus. A guaranteed income for all was to be the centre of House of Lazarus, a place of equality, a place of non-judgement, a place of community.” Following Tysick’s presentation, Duncan was asked to speak. Acknowledging the importance of Tysick’s work both in Ontario and B.C., Duncan presented Tysick with the Platinum Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II medal for his efforts. While the medal was on back order, Duncan presented Tysick with a commemorative scroll acknowledging the accomplishment.
“You were a champion and a voice for people that needed it,” Duncan said to Tysick. “And not only was the founding of the House of Lazarus important for us 35 years later, as you outlined, and as Cathy introduced tonight, the staff, the team, the programs, yes, we have challenges, we have a lot to address, sadly still, but if it weren’t for your passion and your energy and your leadership over the years, just the impact, the foundation you set for us is something that to this day, we’re still very, very grateful for.”
With its headquarters in Mountain (2245 Simms Street), HOL provides services to surrounding communities through its food bank and its many outreach programs and initiatives. The local mission helps those in need of food, clothing, household items, housing, and more, making it a priority to identify and fill the gaps in services for those living in poverty. The food bank itself is now located at 10619 Main Street in South Mountain. The mission also has a satellite site in Ingleside in the basement of the Ingleside-Newington United Church, which is located at 15 Maple Street.
“Thirty-five years ago, House of Lazarus built 32 houses in our community. Today, safe, and affordable housing is still an issue. House of Lazarus provides wood to heat people’s homes, handymen and materials to tackle urgent housing repairs, housing supports in the form of paying for heat, hydro, and rent arrears. We have Hope Bags for the homeless, and we’ve, last year, purchased a building that created two affordable family rental units, the first affordable family rental units in Dundas County,” Ashby said. “As homeless people come through our doors on a regular basis, we need to do more than provide a mattress and blankets so they can sleep in their vehicles. We need to do more than provide fresh water and propane to keep them living in camping trailers year-round.”
To learn more about HOL, visit their website (hol.community) and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To contact the mission directly, phone 613-989-3830.