West Broadway Community Ministry provides programs that respond to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of people of the community.
West Broadway Community Services Inc. (WBCS) in partnership with All Saints Anglican Church and Young United Church, provides a safe, accepting environment in which services and programs are offered to respond to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of individuals and families within the West Broadway neighborhood.
WBCS seeks to do this in ways that enable and sustain community among those who are isolated. We serve in a three fold fashion: responding to urgent needs; promoting self-help and skill development; advocating in matters of social justice.
We work in cooperation with area residents, community groups, local organizations, government, churches and other faith groups to develop a shared vision for an improved community. WBCS is a ministry through which God’s love, as known in Christ, is expressed in active, practical and concrete ways.
In 1971, All Saints' and Young jointly hired a youth worker, Wayne Barr, to develop and support programs for children and families living in the area of the two churches, and the West Broadway Community Ministry was born. At that time it was called "The Parish Ministry." A Joint Parish Ministry Committee from the two churches provided support and oversight to the youth program, which took place at Broadway (Optimist) Community Club, and to the other outreach programs already in existence in the two churches seniors' club. A social club for adults with mild mental challenges, and a neighbourhood drop-in centre.
In the early years of the ministry a conscious effort was made to maintain a balanced involvement between the two sponsoring churches, whether it was in terms of finances, location of the various community outreach programs, or staffing. The first designated Community Minister, Rev. Chuck Spicer of the United Church, was hired in 1973. He was followed by Rev. Bob Webster of the Anglican Church. It has always been important for the Community Minister to maintain a visible and active presence in the sponsoring congregations to demonstrate the link between faith and action; so began the tradition of assigning liturgical responsibilities (worship preparation and participation) in both congregations to the Community Minister.
When Rev. Bob Webster was called to another parish, the first lay person to be appointed to the ministry was hired. Don Bailey, an ex-con and gifted writer, brought his life experience to the programs and people of the community in an authentic way. Don was followed by Aileen Urquhart, a United Church layperson when she was appointed, but a trained diaconal minister when she left. For several years Aileen shared the ministry with Rev. Ted Nimik ("Father Ted") of the Anglican Church. In turn, Ted was joined by Riky De Bakker, an active layperson from the Anglican Church. Ted and Riky served together until Ted's retirement in June, 1997. Caryn Douglas, a United Church diaconal minister, then served for one year as an interim minister during which time she and Riky assisted the Board in looking at new directions for the ministry. In June, 1998, Rev. Barbara Andrews of the Anglican Church accepted a call to West Broadway Community Ministry and served until March, 2002, a period of immense growth in the ministry programs. The ministry was then served by two staff persons; Amy Epp, formerly the Coordinator of Volunteers for the Joint Inner City Ministries, was the Community Minister / Program Coordinator (full-time) and Laura Fouhse, a part-time student at the Centre for Christian Studies, served as Community Minister: Pastoral Coordinator. In August 2002 Bob Gilbert became the full time Community Minister and he was joined in July 2007 by Linda Dyck as the Seniors’ program coordinator.
In 1979 the ministry became legally incorporated as West Broadway Community Services Inc. This was done in order to broaden the funding base into government and community, as well as church-based, resources. Over the years the ecumenical basis of the ministry has broadened as well, to include Mennonite, Catholic and Jewish participation.
West Broadway Community Ministry has provided a number of outreach programs since its inception, all of which have been focused on meeting the social, physical and spiritual needs of people in our neighbourhood. Over the Garden Fence, which provided lemonade and cookies to passers-by in the Broadway yard of the old Young Church building, the Wednesday Night Children's Club which eventually merged with West Broadway Youth Outreach, the Thursday Night Friendship Club, the Seniors' Club, and the Food Club/Food Bank were all developed and supported by the community ministry.
By the mid-eighties the office, drop-in, and many of the programs were centralized in Young United Church, although the Food Bank has always been housed at All Saints'. When Young's building was destroyed by fire in December. 1987, West Broadway Community Ministry was left homeless. A small "hole-in-the-wall" location was found at 563 Broadway: this later became the Community Police Office for a brief period.
The community ministry operated at that location for two years with an old wooden picnic table out back serving as the meeting place for coffee, sandwiches, conversation and counselling. From 1990 to 1993, during the reconstruction on the Young Church site, the ministry moved back into All Saints'. In October, 1993, West Broadway Community Ministry proudly took its place as a co-tenant of Crossways In Common, sharing space, programs and commitment to the community with Young United Church, Hope Mennonite Church, West Broadway Youth Outreach, West Broadway Day Nursery Centre and Artemis Housing Co-op.
The Community Ministry could not exist without its loyal and talented volunteers. In the early years, most of the volunteers came from the two sponsoring churches. Over time, with support and training through the Joint Inner City Ministries Volunteer Coordinator Program, more and more volunteers have been recruited from the West Broadway community as well as from other churches. Many of our most committed volunteers begin their involvement as recipients of services or participants in programs, then return to give something back to the community by helping others.
Our volunteers truly are the heart of our ministry. In April, 2000, at a luncheon at the Convention Centre, we were honoured to receive the Mayor's Service Award for the Mobilization of Volunteers. This award was well earned; in 2001, 8132 volunteer hours were recorded at the Drop-In and 1690 hours at the Food Club, providing food, hospitality, a listening ear, training programs in computer skills, food preparation, child care and development, crafts, weekly worship services, emergency food kits, phone, laundry and shower facilities to over 17,000 visitors to the Drop-In and more than 5000 individuals and families through the Food Bank.
Rev. Bill Cross reminded us of our origins when he said, "The unique gift of West Broadway Community Ministry is the acknowledged spiritual presence which guides us." With the constant help of the Spirit, we will be an on-going presence in this community to nurture and empower people to develop their skills and abilities, to promote self-sufficiency and leadership, and to advocate with our neighbours for justice issues within the inner city.