News from Mount Zion
May 27, 2022
Open Sesame Up-Date
The Open Sesame Committee met online Wed. May 18th at 12:15 pm. Thanks to the Minutes we receive from Jana Kelly and Samantha Beesley's Staff Meetings we are kept up-to-date on the children's activities on the playground and in the classroom. A Music Therapy intern has come once a week working with the children in two groups (children who can sit and children who need to move around more). Bring a Book to School Day was a huge success that grew out of the children's own desire to share their favourite books at school. The teachers said it was wonderful to experience the children's pride in their book and to get a feel for what they are reading at home.
There were many topics discussed at our meeting and here are some of them:
Jana was attending a zoom meeting with the Region of Waterloo on Thurs. May 19th re the government's $10 a day child care called (CWELCC) Canada Wide Early Learning Child Care agreement. She will therefore have more information for us when we have our next meeting in mid June.
We discussed the request from parents that our program be extended to 3.5 hours each morning from the present 2.5. A decision will be made at our next meeting after Samantha does more research on the subject of adding more food at snack time, or another alternative, if children leave at 12:30 instead of 11:30.
The teachers recommended that a multi purpose-built structure be added to the classroom so that the children could improve their gross motor skills by doing some indoor climbing. Cost is a factor to consider and therefore this will also be discussed further when we meet in June.
Samantha and Jana are going to look into the possibility of us hiring another ECE teacher. We are licensed for 16 children and at this point we already have 8 children enrolled for Sept. The maximum number allowed in the classroom with one ECE teacher is 8 children. We were told there is a long waiting list of parents wanting their children to come to Open Sesame.
We are hoping to be able to meet in person at the next meeting in June and invite Karen Gastmeier and Richard Brubacher to attend as well, being we will be discussing the $10 a day government funding agreement.
We are truly blessed to have Samantha and Jana working together and providing such a positive experience for our preschoolers. You will know what I mean when you read some of the comments that have been received from the parent survey done this spring.
"You ladies are doing an amazing job! I don't feel like there is anything you can improve on. You go above and beyond all my expectations time and time again!
"Following up with each child individually is awesome. Considering different cultures at Open Sesame is appreciated. Thanks for your great efforts!
"I love the feedback I get when I come to pick up my son. Jana and Sam both always take the time to answer my questions. I feel that my child is loved and taken care of at the preschool. I also LOVE the pictures that are shared on Instagram. Nothing comes to mind for improvement. Just continue the awesome work that you do!"
Do It Yourself Picture Directory back in progress
Prior to Covid 19 shutdowns, a new picture directory for the congregation was in its early days of development. As with lots of other projects, it just didn’t happen. However, we have dusted off the file and are busy making plans for the new directory. Although planning has just started and all the details are not yet figured out, we can tell you:
We are planning to do the directory ourselves without the aid of the photography company who produced the directories.
It is our goal to have it finished by mid to late September. The directory will include your name and contact information as always, but we have been asked to include email addresses. We will do so where possible.
The directory is a printed document for use of congregation members. It will not appear on-line in any format.
If you have moved or have a new phone number, please let Margaret know asap. Right now, we are checking and rechecking the data that will be included
We will ask you to supply your own photo and submit it by email. (see below)
Over the summer we will assemble the booklet and have it printed professionally.
There will be a small charge for the directory, probably around $10. (In the past, each of you paid the photography company for your photos and Mount Zion then received a limited number of directories for free.
More about taking your own photo and submitting it
We are not looking for formal photographs, something you or a friend took with a cell phone is just fine.
Please feel free to include your furry family members too.
Here is a couple of hints to help make your photo better
Mount Zion’s Food Voucher Program – the Backstory,
It’s been around for quite a while, operating quietly, almost off the radar at times. But Mount Zion’s Food Voucher program has regularly helped hundreds of local families fill their grocery carts with nourishment, and dignity.
Yet despite its success, this ongoing ministry faces challenges in a world that has changed radically over the decade or so since its launch. Read on to learn more and how you can ensure that it continues into the future.
A little history
From at least 2011, when financial records for it were started, Mount Zion has used grocery vouchers and/or cards to help chronically food-insecure people in our community.
This story has a lot of numbers in it, some very big ones. And they’re important because they make it possible for human faces and hands in our congregation to connect with people whose needs are not only the “tangibles” of food on their tables, but patience and kind words that respect and value them.
Let’s start with the biggest number so far. To date, $30,400 worth of food vouchers/grocery cards have been distributed.
That’s pretty impressive, but you may be surprised – even shocked – to learn that two-thirds of that was spent between 2020 and now; just two-and-a-half years!
Growth and change
In the beginning, food vouchers were managed through our church office on a random schedule, for a small group of familiar recipients in the church’s immediate neighbourhood. For nearly a decade numbers grew slowly but steadily, mostly by word-of-mouth.
Church Treasurer Richard Brubacher notes that from 2011–2013 the average value of vouchers distributed was about $575 per year. By 2014–2018, the annual average amount had more than doubled to around $1,300.
Then in 2019 it took a major leap upward to $1,885. The expenditure was still manageable, however. Support funding from a small but mighty group of donors was coming in to cover the cost, and the program was clearly filling a significant need.
But everything changed rapidly and alarmingly when Covid-19 hit.
In 2020, we gave out $5,375 worth of grocery cards – nearly three times the previous year’s amount – and in 2021 the total jumped again to an unprecedented $9,340.
An “explosion” of need
As Richard aptly describes it, we are currently experiencing an “explosion” of need, as more and larger families, along with more single individuals, have come to depend on Mount Zion as one of their essential sources for food assistance.
And the trend of increasing food need will only escalate as post-Covid supply chain issues, the agricultural impact of climate change, Russia’s war against Ukraine, and other global factors, result in rising food prices – nearly 10% in Canada to date.
With more and more people requesting a place on our grocery card list, it became necessary to stop accepting new registrations. This is news that volunteers on monthly distribution days have found difficult to deliver.
We’re running out
On May 19 this year, we actually ran out of cards – and money – after having given out more than $6,100 worth since January. More cards were purchased “on the basis of hope” at a cost of $2,000, even though donation reserves were insufficient to cover that amount.
In this situation, Richard explained, the program temporarily had to move to deficit financing by drawing on the church’s dwindling contingency fund, which cannot continue indefinitely.
He now estimates that it will require $1,540 per month throughout 2022 just to maintain our current level of distribution. That adds up to nearly $18,500 projected for this year – or nearly two-thirds of the entire amount given out since 2011.
Seeing the human picture
Mary Thompson, chair of our Justice through Service Committee, helped connect the numbers on a more human scale.
She reports that from February until mid-May, Mount Zion’s food cards assisted an average of 9 single individuals per month with $30 each in cards. Many of these people have been socially marginalized due to mental health and/or substance abuse issues, and are economically disadvantaged through chronic unemployment or under-employment.
During the same period, an average of 22 families per month each received $60 worth of cards. Many are multi-generational new Canadian families where it’s common for parents, 6 to 11 children, and grandparents or other close relatives, to be living under the same roof. Mount Zion is only one of several essential sources that supplement their employment and social assistance earnings to provide enough food for these households.
The challenge of success – broadening our base
Until recently, faithful donors have contributed enough to the rising costs of food voucher distribution, ensuring that the program continued serving those who need it most. But the donor base has been surprisingly small for the amount generated.
Richard noted that of the 16 regular donors who’ve helped so far in 2022, just two or three are carrying the bulk of the financial load.
In order to put the program on a more sustainable financial footing, he cautions that “We really need to broaden our donor base.”
That translates to the old but proven strategy of spreading the load – getting more of us involved through smaller, but regular, donations that can better address today’s economic realities.
Un-confusing Mount Zion’s food ministries
The Food Voucher program, currently staffed by volunteers from the Health Council and Justice through Service Committee and managed from the church office, is an independent outreach that is not part of the newer weekly hot meal program that will resume in September.
Mount Zion Kitchen meals are available for purchase and pickup or delivery by congregation members and people in the surrounding community. But most of these meals are distributed free of charge to those who couldn’t otherwise afford them – shut-ins, those on low or fixed incomes, students at Martin Luther University College through their “Distro” program, and others. Volunteers purchase or pick up local produce and baked goods, as well as assisting chefs Winston and Mrs. Bell in preparing ingredients for nearly 200 meals each Thursday from September through April.
Many congregation members also took part in a long-running program which returned 5% of the value of grocery cards purchased from Ann Crossman and others to help fund our Open Sesame pre-school. That program was recently discontinued as it had become too labour-intensive to administer.
And finally – How you can help
To support Mount Zion’s Food Voucher program and ensure there are always enough grocery cards available for our recipients, currently our most urgent food ministry need:
Include “Food Vouchers” in the Memo line of your cheques, or specify “Food Vouchers” in the Message line of online EFT (electronic funds transfers) or Canada Helps donations.
To support our weekly hot meals program, over and above direct meal purchase costs, include “Mount Zion Kitchen” in the Memo line of cheques, or specify “Mount Zion Kitchen” in the Message line of online EFT (electronic funds transfers) or Canada Helps donations.
Donation receipts for both programs are promptly issued from the church.
If you would also like to connect with our food ministry programs in a more hands-on way, contact:
Food Vouchers – Mary Slethaug (Health Council) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mount Zion Kitchen – Christine Ramseyer (Parish Nurse) email@example.com
-- by Pauline Finch (Justice through Service Committee)
With invaluable assistance from Treasurer Richard Brubacher and Mary Thompson
Circle for Reconciliation and Justice Book Study
The month of June is National Indigenous History Month and in honour of this important time, the Eastern Synod Circle for Reconciliation and Justice (CRJ) is inviting all of you to participate in a study of Michelle Good’s award-winning book, Five Little Indians. There will be two Zoom sessions. The first one will be held on Thursday, June 2, at 7 pm, and is designed to prepare us for reading the book. The second will be a wrap-up session on Monday, June 20, at 7 pm. More information, including zoom links, can be found here.
Mount Zion Cafe now meeting in person
On June 8, The Mount Zion Cafe will meet in person for the last time before their summer break. Be sure to attend for a little socializing and fun.
Sun. May 29 — Seventh Sunday of Easter
Psalm 97 (12)
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Sun. June 5 — Day of Pentecost
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (30)
John 14:8-17 [25-27]
Reminder about Masks
Council reviews our Mask and other Covid Policy monthly. At thier May meeting it was decided that it is still prudent for the congregaton to remain masked when in the building. Council will review again at their June 2 meeting.
Links for Worship and more
Sundays 10 am Click on the logo to join the Live Stream Worship
(Recordings of the services are available)
Sundays 9:40 am Join members for a time of fellowship preceeding the service https://zoom.us/j/96599940521
VESPERS 7:00 pm Monday - Thursday evenings
(Sign in any time after 6:30, Service starts at 7:00 pm)
MOUNT ZION ZOOM CAFE 10:00 a.m. on Wednesdays
Mount Zion's office tel.: 519 886-5820 office hours: Tues. - Fri. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
How to contact our staff, while our building is closed:
Pastor Philip Mathai firstname.lastname@example.org cell: 519-781-5602
Music Director Sarah. E. Cardwell email@example.com
Office Administrator Margaret Waechter firstname.lastname@example.org
Nurse Christine Ramseyer email@example.com cell: 519-588-8006
Feel free to call our cell phones. If we aren't available we'll return your call!