Published on October 1, 2020 http://ufvcascade.ca/community-spotlight-sardis-doorway/ufvcascade.ca/community-spotlight-sardis-doorway/
By Danaye Reinhard
High-risk moms find support at Chilliwack organizationSardis Doorway is a Christian organization that seeks to better the lives of high-risk mothers in Chilliwack. Founded by Elsie Goerzen in 1987 (then called Sardis Open Door), the organization offers programs and support for single mothers with children under six. According to their website, the moms’ program offers educational workshops, referrals, a hot lunch, and crisis counseling, while the children’s “literacy-rich” program includes art, play, music, and kindergarten readiness.
Karin Rempel has been involved with Doorway since it was founded and has been the program director since 2014. She focuses on writing grants, planning the weekly program, overseeing staff, and finding referrals. I had the privilege of sitting down with her to learn more about Doorway, its contribution to the community, and her involvement.
Sardis Doorway’s goal is to work toward health and self-reliance for each woman who comes through their doors. This includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health, as well as financial independence and meaningful employment. Rather than seeking minimum-wage jobs as an immediate solution, Doorway points them to adult education programs and computer training so these women can find better jobs and make enough money to support themselves and their children. It’s all about providing resources that will help them long-term instead of emergency solutions that may not last.
For Doorway, this means creating a “web of support.” In the same way that UFV matches students with job opportunities and counseling services, Doorway introduces single moms to resources such as substance abuse programs, on-site counselors, and a beautician who comes in to cut and style hair. They give referrals to the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, Stó:l? Health, Wilma’s Transition Society, and many others. They also receive emotional support through new connections with other moms. Instead of only asking, “How can organizations help vulnerable people?” the question becomes, “Who can we add to their web?” In this way, there is a holistic approach to finding support for these women.
Sometimes, women who have gone through the program as children return as Doorway moms — which, Rempel admitted, seems like a failure. However, these women are usually not as vulnerable as their mothers were when they were children. “They’re here as moms with their kids in a better state than their mom had,” she said. “If cycles of poverty and abuse have been generational, why do we think we can see it broken in one generation?”
Even so, Rempel has seen Doorway moms become nurses, master’s students, and social workers. For her, there’s nothing better than seeing women with awful pasts come through the other side healthy.
This fall, Sardis Doorway looks a bit different. With COVID-19 restrictions, they have limited the number of programs available and the number of participants to 50. They follow a strict set of COVID-19 procedures to keep the moms and volunteers safe. But this hasn’t stopped Doorway from supporting women beyond the 50-person limit. They still provide food hampers to Doorway moms each month, as well as craft/baking packages for their kids. They also began providing recipes, cooking videos, and supplies for cooking at home. And, like before, there is counseling available on-site.
“Your job isn’t to save the world or to save people,” Rempel said. “Your job is to offer whatever needs to be offered and let them find their own truth or their own strength.”
Sardis Doorway hosts programs at Sardis Community Church in Chilliwack. To learn more about Sardis Doorway or to get involved, go to their website or contact them at email@example.com.
When Sardis Doorway closed for Spring Break on March 11, 2020, we didn’t realize it would be the last day of our program year.
Covid-19 was out there but it didn’t seem like a big threat as we planned to reopen in a few weeks.
When Spring Break was extended ~ we encouraged our families to use the time at home to complete some of the tasks they didn’t usually have the time to do: clean out the closet, organize the toys or match all the lids to containers in the Tupperware drawer.
Then everything changed again and it became clear that we would not be all together again before the end of our program year in June.
We knew that the summer would be so long for our participants.
How could we encourage them in a time when everyone is being told to stay apart and stay home in order to stay safe? What could we say to them knowing that home is often lonely, isolating and sometimes not a safe place?
With all this in mind, we had to make a new plan for Sardis Doorway.
Weekly video workshops provided the women with an opportunity to continue learning the Respectful Futures curriculum we had been working on as well as introduced new topics on 'how to survive being isolated with young children' and 'how to parent through these crazy times'.
Fresh and meat hampers continued to the end of our program year and then were extended through the summer introducing the 'Cooking Class Hampers'.
Support workers connected with each mom through text, phone or Facebook every week and encouraged them to speak with our counselor or reach out to us if they ever needed to chat.
As the usual program year was coming to an end in June, we knew that we couldn’t take a summer break ~ After all, we are all in this together.
With Covid-19 Relief grants from the Vancouver Foundation, Canadian Women’s Foundation, Mazon Canada, Mennonite Disaster Services and the VanCity Community Connections Fund, we were able to continue to offer support through intentional connection and food hampers all summer.
We were able to facilitate a small When Love Hurts group for women who have experienced abuse and continue a Home Improvement group that had started before everything was shut down. (Home Improvement is a facilitated group for men who recognize that they have hurt women with their words or actions and are willing to change) www.whenlovehurts.ca
We added an outreach worker to connect with those who were struggling or needed extra support and encouragement during this time.
All of this was done in an effort to build on the relationships that we already had.
And now here we are on September 2nd with no clear picture as to what the fall will look like.
Again we are asking: how do we serve those who are being told to stay apart and stay home in order to stay safe?
Through all of this, the mission of Doorway has not changed and continues to guide the work we do ~
To walk with high-risk single mothers towards health and self-reliance. This is done as an expressing of God’s love for us all.
BUT –– how do we carry out this mission when we can’t be together?
When we can’t chat face-to-face with participants as their children safely play with their Doorway friends?
When we can’t offer a hug when tears fall or a high five when good news comes?
When we can’t welcome our many volunteers who want to serve and also be together?
~ We call, text or use Facebook weekly to check in, offer referrals and give encouragement
~ We offer over-the-phone or in-person counseling
~ We deliver milk and bread
~ We deliver monthly fresh hampers, frozen meat hampers and our new ‘Cooking Class Hampers’
~ We facilitate small When Love Hurts groups to women and Home Improvement groups to men
~ We seek other resources in our community for additional support if needed
And we plan for the day when we can be together again.
Doorway looks very different right now. There is more planning involved as there is so much more to consider.
But we continue to build on the relationships we already have with our families and volunteers
~ and we move forward (staying six-feet apart).
We pray, leaving it all in God’s hands.
Until we are all together again, thank you for your ongoing support.
Volunteer ~ Donate ~ Pray
My impact story
Over the years, hundreds of people have written their own 'Doorway Stories'. This blog will feature some of these stores. Visit often as we keep adding new ones.