Feeding impoverished people to soothe the ache of hunger is one of the priorities of Mustard Seed, a Christian organization now taking root in Prince George.
It will also find clothing and shelter for the city's underprivileged men, women and children in the city, find ways to transport them to jobs or doctor's appointments, and provide counselling to steer people away from the addictive lifestyles of alcohol and substance abuse.
By providing some of the basic necessities of life to address immediate needs, the ultimate goal of Mustard Seed is to make breakthrough improvements and lasting changes in the lives of the people they serve.
"The key to the whole thing about Mustard Seed is to not stop with just giving food or clothing, but working with individuals to get them out of their cycle of dependency, whatever that might be," said David Inwood, executive director of Mustard Seed in Prince George.
"We've spent a lot of time talking to people in the last six or seven months to make sure we're not duplicating what's already being done. There are lots of organizations in Prince George doing great work and we're looking to find things the other agencies are not able to pick up on, and expand in those areas."
Another primary objective is to find safe, affordable and appropriate longterm housing for people. Mustard Seed will especially try to help foster children who have become adults and are no longer eligible for provincial housing programs, as well as single men and single-parent families.
One need Mustard Seed plans to address is the lack of an online database that provides up-to-date information about social agencies in the community and charitable services offered by churches. The group has so far contacted 40 churches in the city to let them in on their plans.
"There's a huge need for interagency co-ordination and co-operation, so you know who is doing what," said Inwood.
A volunteer component -- Mustard Seed Works -- is being developed to provide a core of qualified volunteers to plan events in collaboration with other non-profit groups, community groups and churches. Within the volunteer group, Mustard Seed will form microboards, small groups of volunteers for tasks such as helping parents of disabled children by offering to look after their their kids temporarily to give them a break. The group's first meeting is planned for Nov. 27.
Mustard Seed is still awaiting approval of its charitable status application with Revenue Canada. It will benefit from the fund-raising experience of Inwood, a former general manager of a children's hospital in Sydney, Australia.
"Corporate support is certainly going to be a key plank in our operation but as with every small community there's not a lot of corporate to support you with, so we would be looking for grants from various organizations," said Inwood. "In the long run, our most important fund-raising tool will be direct appeals to the Prince George public, and that will take time to develop our integrity and reputation and people believe we actually are doing something good."
The other founding directors of Mustard Seed in Prince George are program director Barb Croome, chairperson Julia Koopmans, vice-chair Rick Koopmans, and secretary-treasurer Karen Pitcher. Inwood and Croome worked for the Salvation Army in Prince George before joining Mustard Seed.
The origins of Mustard Seed in Western Canada can be traced to 1975, when it began as a street church ministry in downtown Victoria. Alberta chapters opened in Calgary in 1984, and in Edmonton in 1988, and they joined forces as a province-wide organization in 2008. Two volunteers with Mustard Seed backgrounds -- Waldy Krahn, who worked for the Calgary ministry, and Linda Bollinger, who was with the Edmonton branch -- now live in Prince George and plan to work with the Prince George chapter.
Established on Oct. 15 as a non-profit society, Thursday marked the official launch for Mustard Seed in Prince George. The group is in the process of forming an advisory council and also plans to open a thrift store, recycling business, community market, drop-in coffee shop, and an art gallery to showcase the works of local artists. Its main base of operations will be located downtown.
For more information call 250-596-4664 or email mustardseedprgeo...@gmail.com.