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A loving community

By Caileigh Morrison, 1JustCity intern

Like many folks in Winnipeg, my world turned upside down in March as emergency measures began for the COVID-19 pandemic. I went from house-hunting on my days off from my stable job at a boarding school to being unemployed and isolated at home in just a week and a half. Thankfully, 1JustCity had an opening for an intern at St. Matthew’s-Maryland Community Ministry. I jumped at the chance to stay busy, learn new skills, and give back to my community.

When I started on March 30th, a number of changes had already been implemented at the site. St Matthew’s-Maryland had gone from a busy drop-in with lots of volunteers to a food distribution site with only three staff. Some guests were upset that they couldn’t enjoy their usual routine and help out in the drop-in, and others weren’t happy that only one person was allowed in at a time, creating a long line up outside. Fairly quickly though, we figured out a good rhythm, and have been able to provide lunches and food kits for around 100 people a day.

I’m truly amazed by all the good will I’ve seen in this community. Guests quickly adapted to the new system and have been respectful of staff and each other in the line-ups. Donors have sewed us masks and gowns to wear while we distribute food, dropped off plastic bags for us to pack emergency kits, and brought us so many lunches to hand out. I love working with Josh, Laura, and Lori, as well as the few other volunteers who come in once a week. I’ve also gotten to know the regulars and have learned their preferences – Charles loves raisin bread, Nicole doesn’t like vegetables, and Mary likes her food kit in a box because it fits on her walker. It really feels like we’re all one big family, looking out for each other as best we can.

My internship is coming to a close, and I’m moving out of town temporarily. While I can’t say I’ll look back at living through a pandemic fondly, I will definitely carry this experience of loving community in my heart. And I will be sure to drop by whenever I’m back in Winnipeg!

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