Sharing hope, peace, love and joy this Advent season
ADVENT … It means “coming”, and it’s the period before Christmas, in anticipation for the birth of Jesus – Emmanuel – God who came to dwell in the neighbourhood among us. This Advent season, we will be sharing with you a daily picture, from December 1-25, giving you a look into “God with us” at NightShift.
Merry Christmas! Thank you, community of support, for your incredible servant hearts. For the countless hours spent volunteering, the innumerable donations received, for the endless prayers prayed over our ministry. “We are so grateful for the love and support of our community who care about people who are struggling and vulnerable!” Says MaryAnne Connor, Founder and President of NightShift Street Ministries. “We could not do all that we do without you!” How special it is on this Christmas day, to celebrate the miracle and birth of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. God who took on flesh to dwell among us, to lay down His life for His friends. How awesome it is to celebrate the birth of Christ- Lord and Servant- in the NightShift neighbourhood today. “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26–28). Merry Christmas to all ❤️ thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all of your support this season.
Advent season blessings. On a snowy, wet day in the NightShift neighbourhood, an Advent season blessing was bestowed. Say hello to Jen, from Milieu Family Services, a centre in Surrey committed to supporting youth and adults in our community. Jen stopped by the NightShift outreach lot late in the afternoon this past week with some special treats intended for NightShift’s evening meal outreach. Our dinner that night was extra tasty as our volunteer team distributed tasty wraps and sodas as well. Upon chatting, Jen was excited to hear all about the many serving opportunities and ways to get involved at NightShift. Thank you to Jen and the team at Milieu Family Services, for all you do, too!
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The miracle of friendship. The depth of love and friendship we get to witness at NightShift is nothing short of miraculous. Human connection is vital to our survival and sharing hope. Meet Gord and Dawson, two unlikely friends, who connected through afternoons in NightShift’s Welcome Centre. Dawson, our Program Assistant, facilitates the Welcome Centre daytime drop-in on weekday afternoons. Gord first began coming around NightShift in September, after hearing about us through a friend. Gord regularly comes to NightShift’s hot meal outreach, and to our Welcome Centre drop-in to connect with friends. In fact, Gord’s favourite part about NightShift is the community. He loves meeting people and being able to share his experiences with others – like Dawson. “Gord is just the nicest guy. He’s always so positive. He’s like a light, and everyone sees it,” Dawson shares. “He’s so generous too.” We are honoured to witness the friendships, like the one between Dawson and Gord, formed over the years at NightShift. Human connection, friendship and mutual support is important to building healthy community.
On the first day of Christmas… ‘Tis the season for giving! Say hello to one of the hardworking crew members of the Langley Township Firefighters Society. This generous donation was made in honour of their 12 Days of Giving campaign where local fire crews started delivering $1,000 a day to 12 selected non-profits in this community. This is their fourth year of this special giving campaign. The 12 Days of Giving campaign is aimed at both giving and putting a spotlight on groups that work to make Langley a better place. NightShift was blessed to be one of their selected charities this year! NightShift serves 4 time a week (from Monday – Thursday) at Friends Langley Vineyard Church where staff and volunteer teams serve a hot meal, distribute clothing and offer basic medical care to those in need. Thank you, Langley Township Firefighters Society, for your generosity.
Food for the Soul. NightShift’s annual sit-down Christmas Dinner is special to us. Every year, around this time, we gather together to serve a holiday meal made up of hot turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes and all the fixings necessary for a delicious Christmas dinner. With the help of donors, staff and volunteers, this past weekend NightShift was able to serve a turkey dinner, along with gift bags and presents for those with little ones, to our friends on the street. Altogether, over the course of two sittings, we served around 125 meals. Having a place to belong during the holidays is important. This time of year can be hard on many of us, bringing up old memories or experiencing an increased sense of isolation and loneliness. This is why NightShift chooses to spend time together in community – because Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us, is always present in the NightShift neighbourhood. We want to extend a special thanks to McQuarrie Legal Services, Exclusive Floors, JD Farms and Country Lumber for making this Christmas dinner possible.
Giving back. Here you see an image of a man who has a genuine heart for giving back. Meet Mike, a good friend of ours here at NightShift. On and off for 13 years, Mike had been experiencing homelessness, frequenting “the strip” (135a street) and hanging around the NightShift neighbourhood. On the night Mike decided to join NightShift’s prayer circle his life began to change. God answered his prayers, “10 fold” as he explains it. We now see Mike 3 times a month when he drops off a generous donation to care for his community and say hi to the staff. This picture shows Mike tending to the little lawn we have outside of our office building earlier this year. “Now I can afford to give back…which I do,” Mike explains, saying when he goes up to see the good Lord, he wouldn’t want Him saying, “Mike, I helped you out with a job, I got a roof over your head, and you gave nothing back!” It’s lovely to see Mike’s desire to give back and care for the NightShift community in turn.
Community Restoration. Meet Sheila and Stephanie, two lovely ladies from Belfor Property Restoration. We had the pleasure of meeting Sheila and Stephanie when the pair knocked on the NightShift Street Ministries’ door with a car full of donations for people in need on the street. With bags and bags full of warm clothing and essential outreach items, the team from Belfor Property Restoration blessed our NightShift neighbourhood. This kind of unconditional generosity is what builds community restoration! The two ladies explained that each year Belfor Property Restoration chooses a charity to give to, and this year it was NightShift! We feel so blessed to be able to accept this donation, to help our friends who are experiencing homelessness, poverty, addiction and mental illness. As the temperatures drop and the snow falls, we could not be more grateful for the generous donations that come through our doors. Thank you, Belfor Property Restorations.
God just wants to hear from us all. Prayers can be big and prayers can be small… God just wants to hear from us all! Last week, our friends from @centurygroupdev came out to Surrey to serve a hot meal and hand out 100 beautifully wrapped Christmas presents filled with treats and essential items inside to our friends on the street. At the end of the night, when everyone gathered around for prayer circle, one of our street friends prayed that, “Everyone would have the opportunity to have this amazing beef stew at least once in their lives!” Thank you for serving with us Century Group!
Pouring out blessings with a servant heart. Our community is the best at pouring out blessings onto others. Meet the crew from Vancouver City Blessing Church. This fantastic bunch of people came all the way out from Burnaby last Saturday to bless our friends on the street with a hot meal, a sweet smile and a whole lot of love. Pastor Ashish from City Blessing says, “We were looking to find a partner organization to work with so that we can engage our members in community involvement and make an impact.” NightShift’s Maisie (bottom right) shared, “Everyone was so grateful to be there. They were so kind to all our street friends, and just wanted to lend a helping hand – they even fought over mopping the floor at the end of the night! To me this really demonstrated a servant heart.”
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Caring for others. Meet Deb Ewanchuk, who has been volunteering with NightShift’s Thursday night outreach team in Surrey, for more than 10 years. Deb’s decision to care for others comes from a personal place. As a stage 3 cancer survivor, she understands how important it is to feel loved and cared for when we are at our most vulnerable. Deb wanted to share the kindness she had been shown by the hands that helped her. “I went out to an evening meal one night to see what outreach was all about,” shares Deb. “It gets in your heart, and you just feel compelled to be here. I know we are helping out, but I just get so much back from the people I meet – the nicest people!” We have so much love and gratitude for Deb! Thank you to her, and all of NightShift’s supporters.
Corporate kindness from the heart. NightShift was blessed this week to pick up a generous donation from the kind team at McQuarrie Legal Services. NightShift’s Communications Coordinator Hannah, had the opportunity to swing by the McQuarrie office to pick up two trolleys full of homemade care kits, along with a generous financial donation supporting our annual Christmas Dinner for friends in need. The team came up with the idea of creating care packages filled to the brim with essential outreach supplies including various hygiene products, snacks, and even a note pad and pens. This Saturday, December 17th, a few members of the McQuarrie team will be joining NightShift’s volunteers at our Christmas celebration dinner here in Surrey. We are grateful for the team at McQuarrie! Their corporate kindness is what helps build healthy communities. Thank you @mcquarrie.
Teach, inspire and love. Educating the mind and educating the heart are equally important. This warm-hearted teacher from James Ardiel Elementary School is living this out with her Grade 7 class this Christmas season. “We just decided to give back this Christmas. We’re used to getting things given to us, and this year I wanted to teach my Grade 7’s a little bit about giving back. We started this drive, and it began as just two bags and then slowly more and more and more just kept showing up!” Bags and bags of donations piled up in NightShift’s front office this past Monday from James Ardiel students and teachers who blessed our community in need with clean clothing, blankets and snack items. Thank you James Ardiel Elementary for your dedication to lifting spirits of those in need.
The generosity of God’s people. “The generosity of God’s people … it’s still out there, isn’t it?” MaryAnne Connor, NightShift’s Founder and President, said as she stood staring appreciatively at a mountain of donations that had just come through the front doors of NightShift’s office space in Surrey. Over the last few weeks, the wonderful residents of Elim Village, a retirement community in Surrey, have put their collective generosity to work to help people in need this Christmas season. Last week, they brought an abundance of non-perishable food items and clothing to NightShift, for distribution at our evening meal outreach. Elim Village believes that everyone deserves to feel the embrace of a caring Christian community. Thank you, Elim Village, for the compassionate care and kind embrace you have shown to people in the NightShift neighbourhood!
Simple acts and big impacts. Sometimes, the simplest acts can make a big impact on the community around us. We see it often here at NightShift. Meet Lee, a friend in the NightShift neighbourhood. Lee carries a presence of kindness, grace and gratitude – and she shares these qualities with all she encounters. When Lee is out and about in the neighbourhood, she collects bags of all different shapes and sizes for NightShift to distribute during our evening outreach. This simple act has a big impact because bags are an often-requested item at outreach, and used to pack essential items in. The bags make moving around a little easier for those we serve. “It’s a simple thing I can do for the community, and it’s useful!” shares Lee. Thank you Lee for your lovely presence in the NightShift neighbourhood.
Relationship First. Here at NightShift, relationship is key. We deeply value the role that friendship plays in all of NightShift’s various outreach programs and inreach services. We have heard time and time again, “I came for the food, but stayed for the friends.” Meet Mike and Greg. Mike and Greg met years ago at an outreach dinner and have remained friends ever since. One of NightShift’s core values is unity. When we come together in friendship, love, loyalty and compassion, we see beautiful things happen.
Feeding hungry hearts. Taste of Heaven is NightShift’s dual-purpose food truck! It was designed to feed more than just empty stomachs – but hungry hearts too. When it’s not in use as a professional catering vehicle, Taste of Heaven is an outreach vehicle used to serve hot meals to people in need in Langley. TOH is in Langley, four nights a week, outside Langley Vineyard Church, where volunteer teams serve a hot meal to people experiencing homelessness, poverty, addiction and mental illness. Every meal purchased through Taste of Heaven’s catering events supports NightShift’s nightly outreach and daily continuing care services for friends in need. “Taste of Heaven is a unique symbol of hope,” shares Deanna, our new Taste of Heaven Coordinator. NightShift is blessed to be able to serve our community, in more ways than one. Our Taste of Heaven food truck is just one of the ways we do this.
Going straight to the people. Say hello to Ginger, with @interfitpilates. We had the pleasure of seeing Ginger at our Surrey office earlier this week, when she stopped by to drop off bags and bags of clean, warm winter clothes and blankets. “We decided as a group that we would all bring in some warm items for people in need this winter. So, I went online, and I did some research and I found NightShift – you guys are an organization that goes right to the people when they need it the most,” Ginger explains. “People don’t have to come in and sign up or anything and I thought that was the best way to do it.” Here at NightShift, we aim to remove the barriers restricting people from accessing help when they need it. We want to be reaching out and meeting people’s immediate needs without condition. It is for this reason that NightShift distributes clean and warm clothing and blankets every other night, without fail.
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Every life has value. Meet Maisie Zandbergen, NightShift Street Ministries’ resource worker. When Maisie joined the NightShift staff team last year, she brought a deep understanding of meeting people where they are at, valuing their lives, and helping with their immediate needs. Maisie meets one-on-one with people in our Resource Centre, many of whom are experiencing homelessness, poverty, addiction or mental illness. “What I hear from our friends, time and time again, is that they can tell NightShift cares. They know we recognize the value of their lives and the weight of their circumstance. They aren’t just another case to us.” NightShift’s Resource Centre was developed to offer people the opportunity for empowerment by accessing community resources – no matter what their situation might be.
The holidays are where the heart is. For many of our friends on the street, holidays are a difficult time of year. While many of us come together to gather with family during seasons of celebration, people experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental health challenges often feel a heightened sense of loneliness and isolation. That’s why NightShift puts great care and welcome into Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter celebration dinners for our friends on the street in Surrey and Langley. (Easter in Langley is pictured above!) “Holiday meals are special,” shares Keri Vermeulen, NightShift’s Development Director. “There is extra emphasis on shared community, and that each person is valued and celebrated.” Hearts come together around holiday meals at NightShift. The sense of joy and connection we experience with the people we serve during these special meals builds a sense of community, stability and belonging. Your support helps make this possible!
A legacy of giving. This week, NightShift had the honour of witnessing a legacy in action. A big-hearted team from @ulisrestaurant community came out to serve a delicious meal of hot beef stew, potato soup, Mexican casserole and baked ham, courtesy of @ulisrestaurant @primosmexicangrill @Jansonthebeach and @oceanparkmeats. Jodie, from Uli’s, shares: “Being able to serve your friends on the street was so special. We got to carry on the legacy of giving and compassion started by our dear friend Susan Annala. We were heartbroken by her sudden passing and continuing her work was rewarding, and a way to help ease some of the grief over the loss of our friend. She cultivated a large group of people with big hearts and seeing them serve with love and joy, would have made Susan so proud. We arrived with literal truckloads of donations from family, friends, and businesses that helped make it happen. We are so grateful for the outpouring of generosity for our cause.” Thank you to this wonderful group for carrying on Susan’s legacy by blessing others in the NightShift community.
Serve one another in love. There is something so rejuvenating about getting a haircut. Maybe it’s the connection formed through conversation between stylist and client, maybe it’s the human contact, or maybe it’s the fact that you leave feeling better, and fresher, than when you arrived. Here at NightShift, we feel truly blessed to be able to facilitate free haircuts once a month to our friends in need. “Even just a fresh haircut can help restore dignity and infuse hope into a person’s life,” shares Summer, our volunteer Services & Outreach Manager, pointing out that often people on the street are stigmatized by their appearance. Our Haircut days have proven to be a popular monthly event at NightShift, and we understand why. Getting a haircut just make you feel so good! We are grateful for the professional stylists who come and serve!
Share the warmth! 25 years ago, a few compassionate realtors saw a handful of people sleeping outside in the cold and rain. They saw a need and new they had to do something to meet it. They called out to fellow realtors who took to collecting as many blankets as they could and began distributing them out in our community. Ever since, the Realtors Care Blanket Drive has been sharing warmth around the Lower Mainland, impacting thousands of lives as they do. NightShift sends huge gratitude to Sudhir and his team at REMAX Dream Home Realty for their generous donation of clean, warm blankets. Our team will be distributing these blankets throughout the winter season, during our evening outreach to those we serve – many of whom are spending their nights outside in the cold. Thank you REMAX, for being realtors who care!
Different roles, same goals! Here at NightShift, we are a TEAM. Being part of a team means learning from one another, supporting each other and working together to serve all in the NightShift neighbourhood. Say hello to Maisie, Summer, Rod and Keri… Just a few members of our small but mighty staff team. Each member of the NS gang has a specific role, but what makes NightShift so special is that each person is willing to drop what they’re doing to support someone else in need … whether that be one of our friends on the street, a volunteer, a donor, or another staff member. Our common goal is simple: sharing unconditional love, hope and purpose! When we use our individual talents together, the impact is so much greater than anything we could accomplish alone. This Advent season, we are grateful for one another!
Clothed with strength and dignity. How often do you change your clothes? Most of us would say daily… some might even say multiple times a day! For those folks living on the streets or in a shelter, vital resources like clothing are scarce. With the challenges brought about by inclement winter weather conditions, our friends on the street often find their clothes are wet, causing increased risk of hypothermia. That’s one reason why NightShift’s clean clothing and blanket distribution is so important. Meet Dan, NightShift’s resident clothing sorter. Dan comes to NightShift multiple times a week to sort through a mountain of donations to ensure our friends on the street can access clean, dry clothing and blankets. “We get some really nice things and giving out nice things during outreach is very appreciated by those we serve,” Dan shares.
Everybody is somebody’s somebody. Say hello to little Aaron, the littlest member of our NightShift family, and son of William from our accounting department. Aaron loves popping by the NightShift office with his dad, pretending to answer phone calls at reception. Day to day, we see a lot of friends from the street who are living with the pain of being apart from their children and families. This disconnect can cause added instability to their lives. At NightShift, we aim to provide a sense of connection and family for our friends in need on the street. That’s one of the reasons outreach, 365 nights a year in Surrey and four nights a week in Langley, is so important! At NightShift, anybody can be our somebody.