Have you ever looked in someone's eyes and sensed they have a compelling story to share? I suppose this is true for everyone as we all have different life experiences, both positive and negative. Last Sunday March 18th, I volunteered at Boyle Street Community Services where hundreds of people in the inner city were served a hot roast beef dinner on behalf of the Inner City Agencies Foundation (ICAF).
More than 550 appreciative attendees received approximately 700 meals and take away dinners. Local musicians entertained while families with young children, individuals and couples mingled and chatted. These vulnerable individuals have established their own community with help from the agency employees. They have a warm, safe, supportive place to socialize. Nobody is judged and the staff and clients treat each other with respect.
As I served their meals, I made eye contact with each guest and wondered about their lives. Was it one defining moment or a chain of events that led them to this place? Certainly not all the guests who attended the dinner were experiencing homelessness, but they were all grateful for the simple pleasure of a hot meal.
“Our agencies are committed to helping the people in our community who need it most,” said Garth Von Hagen, Chair of ICAF. One meal in itself doesn’t solve someone’s challenges, but it’s our way of reminding our guests here today that their fellow Edmontonians do care, and that there is hope their personal situation can improve.”
The second event ICAF hosted was the 17th annual Mac&Cheese luncheon attended by approximately 540 people at the Westin on March 20, 2012. Edmonton’s business community and governing officials show their support for ICAF at this event. Councillor Jane Batty officially proclaimed March 18 – 24, 2012 as Inner City Awareness Week, on behalf of Mayor Mandel and the City of Edmonton.
Kavis Reed, Head Coach, Edmonton Eskimo Football Club was the keynote speaker for Mac&Cheese this year. Kavis spoke about the strong community spirit in Edmonton and referenced the “City of Champions” when he declared to luncheon attendees “You are all champions in your community!”
There are many different definitions of community. Any group who connects because of a common interest, cause or those who reside in the same area can be a community. The two recent ICAF events are an example of two of the diverse communities in the City of Edmonton.
Video courtesy of CFRN News
Nancy Burns, Coordinator, Communications, United Way of the Alberta Capital Region
ICAF is a joint initiative that combines the efforts of seven inner city agencies to fundraise for and provide a network of services to alleviate poverty related problems such as housing, addiction, healthcare, nutrition and education in Edmonton. Bissell Centre, Boyle McCauley Health Centre, Boyle Street Community Services, E4C, The Edmonton Inner City Housing Society, Edmonton People in Need Shelter Society (EPINNS) and Operation Friendship Seniors Society are the agencies ICAF represents.
The Inner City Agencies Foundation is in partnership with United Way of the Alberta Capital Region. The Inner City Roast Beef Dinner and Mac&Cheese Luncheon are possible thanks to the coordination and support of United Way.