The inspiration came five years ago from a former cocaine addict. While attending a local community services meal, she asked Debbie Boskovic, a volunteer, if she knew of any place where she could bake. The former drug user said, “When you’re an addict all you think about is yourself. But now that I’m in recovery, I want to give back.”
With those words, an idea took root in Debbie’s heart. She imagined a place where anyone, especially the homeless and addicts, could come to volunteer and give back to the community. Debbie was persuaded that when people contribute meaningfully to the wellbeing of others, their own lives are changed for the better.
“Most of the time, these people are on the receiving end of help. There is no mechanism by which they can give back to others. Always receiving and never giving diminishes a person’s sense of dignity and worth,” Debbie says.
“Before COVID-19 hit, a thought came to my head. It was, ‘You need to start this by September 2021.’ That thought came with the absolute assurance that I was going to do this, it was going to work.” The time was finally right, and God’s hand moved in many ways to create Giving Back St. Thomas, the ministry and facility that Debbie envisioned five years ago.
ADRA Canada supports Giving Back through its Canadian Programs. This programming partners with churches and ministries across the country to reach those in need right here in Canada.
At Giving Back, volunteers have options for getting involved. With a certified commercial kitchen, they can bake treats for the local food banks and shelters. There is also a steady supply of cookies on offer for drop-ins to the facility. A sewing ministry creates beautiful quilts for children through the Children’s Aid Society, which volunteers are welcome to join. Finally, there is a handyman ministry where a team responds to requests for help with small home repairs around the community.
Three months into the ministry, Debbie and her team are slowly getting to know the street community. This population is particularly wary, so earning trust takes time. But already Debbie is seeing signs of acceptance. A few volunteers from off the street have helped in the kitchen and with the sewing. Debbie is hopeful that with time, these volunteers will feel safe enough to come regularly.
“Drug addicts’ ability to enjoy things is so often completely depleted. They need the drugs to feel anything. Imagine if by giving back, by helping others, which we know releases feel-good hormones, it could bypass some of those addictive pathways,” says Debbie, who possesses boundless confidence in God’s ability to save and transform.
“The people are the most important part of what we’re doing. The baking, the sewing, and handyman jobs are just the channels through which we can develop relationships, serve our community, and reveal the beautiful character of Christ to those who need to know Him. So, let us smile and laugh a lot, show an interest in them, and listen with the love of Christ. We are not called to ‘fix’ them, only Jesus can do that. He just wants to love them through us, and He will do the rest.”
To learn more, please visit www.givingbackstthomas.ca.