By Lethbridge Herald on December 8, 2020.
The Lethbridge Soup Kitchen will officially become part of The Mustard Seed as of next March, and will eventually discontinue food service at its current site when The Mustard Seed officially opens its sober shelter, drop-in site and community kitchen at its new downtown location.
The Mustard Seed and the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen Association made the merger announcement on Tuesday.
“We heard The Mustard Seed would be coming to town,” explains Bill Ginther, executive director of the soup kitchen. “I made direct contact with the CEO of The Mustard Seed, Stephen Wile, and I invited him, and he met with us. We talked about the whole idea of maybe having a drop-in centre in their planned facility. A few more meetings took place, and at one of these meetings it was mentioned that when The Mustard Seed comes part of their contract with the provincial government is they provide three meals a day. And, of course, I put on my soup kitchen hat because that is what we do. So I started talking about what they do, and we realized our vision and goals, and our approach to serving the poor, were exactly the same.”
“They are also quite a bit bigger than we are,” he adds, “and they are in many cities. So we said: ‘Why don’t we merge? This makes a lot of sense to us. So that conversation started probably about six weeks ago, and it is continuing by the hour. We just felt this was a great fit.”
Ginther says there is also another reason to make the move to The Mustard Seed right now.
“The City has been wanting to get out of the building ownership business,” he said.
“We have been encouraged to leave our facility to make room for an expanded (non-sober) shelter. Alpha House operates next door, and they would like to utilize our facility for their service. We said fine, but we need a place to go. This (merger) answered that as well.”
“We don’t know when we are moving,” Ginther adds, “but the official merge is scheduled to take place on March 31. We will then be the operators within The Mustard Seed still doing what we do for homeless folks, but for the sober side — the non-using homeless.”
Given the fact The Mustard Seed offers services and supports to only sober members of the vulnerable community, Ginther confirms the soup kitchen will now mainly be serving that demographic.
“There is a sharp distinction between the using and the sober crowd,” he explains. “The Mustard Seed has always worked with the sober side and moved way beyond just providing food. They provide a whole range of services to people. Alpha House has a contract with the provincial government to provide not only shelter for those who are using, but also to provide food for them. So they will be taking over our kitchen with time, and they will be serving those individuals who are not yet moved to the non-using side. They will be offered food in the same facility (as now), just by a different group.”
“In the interim,” Ginther adds, “until that all happens, we are still providing meals for those at Alpha House, for those in isolation, and those who are in quarantine. We are providing meals for all those at this point.”
Ginther says he and his board are excited to become part of The Mustard Seed’s outreach here in Lethbridge to help bring meaningful change to peoples’ lives.
“This is really exciting,” he confirms. “This is something our city has looked toward for a long time.”
Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter