Faith organizations step up to support Calgarians during the COVID-19 pandemic

Get help now: The Clothing Bank at Centre Street Church (CSC) serves free clothing donations during the pandemic in Calgary on Jan. 21. CSC distributes used clothing and new winter items especially for nursing mothers and newborn babies during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Harpreet Kaur/The Press)

In Calgary, religious organizations are helping people in times of great uncertainty and anxiety during the pandemic.

Various religious groups continue to provide charity services, free food and clothing services to Calgarians to foster resilience during COVID-19. Local churches, mosques and Sikh temples have increased their selfless services for food distribution during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Sikh temples continue to serve free vegetarian meals with langar [Guru Nanak’s Free Kitchen], Muslim groups come together to help neighbours in need and churches step up to offer help to needy people during the pandemic.

“We believe that it’s our role as a church in times of trouble to provide people with hope that helps us move forward in the face of crisis,” said Pamela Aramburu, pastor of communications and technical ministries at Centre Street Church in Calgary.

Aramburu said that since the pandemic began, the church has distributed approximately 39,000 frozen meals, box lunches and food hampers to those who are facing food insecurity.

Moreover, local mosques are aiding Calgarians for essential services by running certain local and global campaigns.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have been running the campaign called Neighbourhood Helper under which we have been helping those that need groceries or medicines picked up and delivered to them,” said Zahid Abid, a missionary at Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Calgary.

“Anyone can call the helpline number to benefit from this service.”

Abid said that Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at has also started running a food and blood drive to collect food and blood for donation to those in need.

Sikh communities have also expanded their community kitchens to offer food aid in response to COVID-19.

“We have a lot of initiatives that we are running to help people in need of food and hampers and support during COVID,” said Raj Sidhu, director of operations at Dashmesh Culture Centre (DCC).

Sidhu said that DCC continues to support Calgarians during the crisis and with the No Hungry Tummy initiative anyone can get a free hot vegetarian meal at their community kitchens.

However, a significant increase has been seen in the number of people coming to the religious organizations for support and help after COVID which results in the organizations expanding their social services for serving communities.

“In normal times, we provide the equivalent of about 345 hampers or meals per week and during COVID that number has averaged about 1,500,” said Steve Griffin, pastor of compassionate ministries at Centre Street Church in Calgary.

“We follow all needed protocols for the pandemic and do all that we do as a local church in Calgary to make an impact in our city to exist for the community.”

Griffin said that the clothing bank at the church has been serving the clothing needs of up to 50 people per week which includes gently used clothing and new items for nursing mothers and newborn babies.

“We partner with over 30 organizations across Calgary to get food into the hands of people who are struggling during this pandemic,” said Aramburu.

Aramburu said that the church is successfully distributing 540 lunch boxes, 100 hampers and 100 frozen meals every week during COVID-19, which means that approximately 600 to 1,000 people are being served with food every week at Centre Street Church.

Selfless service: Steve Griffin, pastor of compassionate ministries at Centre Street Church (CSC) poses for a portrait in Calgary on Jan. 21. Griffin leads the CSC’s compassionate ministries team to pack and deliver food and hampers to Calgarians in need during the pandemic. (Photo by Harpreet Kaur/The Press)