Threads - Moved by a year of compassionate hearts and minds
Reflecting on 2023 at MCC Manitoba
Listen in as our host Kyle Rudge talks to Darryl Loewen, Executive Director of MCC Manitoba about the past year.
Threads is a 15-minute radio program featuring the work of MCC in Manitoba and around the world. Threads broadcasts on CFAM AM 950, CHSM AM 1250 and CHRB AM 1220 at 8:45 am on the first Sunday of each month.
Kyle Rudge (00:02):
It begins with a single thread woven through other thread, and then another and another until we have a single piece of fabric. That fabric is stretched, cut and stitched together with another just like it. This process is repeated over and over and over until we have a beautiful tapestry that all began with a single thread. Welcome to MCC Threads, where we look closely at how our stories in Manitoba weave together with the stories of MCC and its partners around the world. 2023 has come to a close and the new year lays before us filled with potential and possibility. Just before Christmas, I ventured over to MCC Manitoba's new location, partially to get a chocolate orange latte from Sam's place because it was delicious, but also to speak to Darryl Loewen about this past year and what's next at MCC.
Darryl Loewen (01:10):
Hi, I'm Darryl Loewen. I'm executive director for MCC Manitoba, based out of the Winnipeg office on 140 Bannatyne Avenue.
Kyle Rudge (01:19):
So how is the new location working for you all? Because that was a journey in and of itself.
Darryl Loewen (01:24):
That was a big journey and at least two years in the making from a research and planning standpoint, one year of design and architecture and construction and move in. So it's been a big project of the last two to three years. It's in six months now in place at 140 Bannatyne. There's so much to enjoy, so much to appreciate beginning with the fact that MCC Manitoba is now under one roof. All our colleagues are in the same halls and the same offices and bumping into each other in good ways. Right? In the kind of ways that lead to organic creativity.
Kyle Rudge (02:14):
And I mean, it wasn't just like moving staff offices, like this included Sam's place and redefining the entirety of what Sam's place kind of does and refocusing. What was that like?
Darryl Loewen (02:25):
In lots of ways, we've refined Sam's place's purpose with sadness for lots of folks. We're no longer a music venue, we're no longer a used bookstore, but we are a very fine coffee shop in a very fine location that draws four times the traffic that it did on Henderson, as beautiful a place as that was. What hasn't changed is the training program for program participants who are getting employee training and certifications and experience in Sam's place with our hourly and salaried staff.
Kyle Rudge (03:04):
Now having the essentially upgraded coffee shop, having your entirety of the staff under one building by said coffee shop. How, how much of your staff sunk their paychecks into said coffee shop?
Darryl Loewen (03:17):
That would vary from person to person, but I do see a lot of Sam's Place soup at lunch time and I see lots of Sam's place coffee on the way to each person's desk and a croissant or two throughout the day, or a bagel as well.
Kyle Rudge (03:35):
Well, let's hone in a little bit about the folks that are kind of overseeing it, both Alison and Rebecca and comment about them and their impact and their joy and their transition into this new place.
Darryl Loewen (03:47):
Well, they've worked so hard. Sam's place was closed for five or six months, five months between the closure at Henderson and the opening of the operation of the cafe or the coffee shop here on Bannatyne. And in that time, they refined merchandising. They worked with One Pus One, a media consultation company to redevelop the brand and to plan new social media strategies and figure out the logistics of a new location. I mean, we built, and they heavily contributed to the layout of the coffee bar and the kitchen behind it. And it's going very, very well.
Kyle Rudge (04:27):
Quick interjection, because Darryl didn't directly mention the success of the program, late last year we spoke to both Alison and Rebecca, and the program continues to be highly coveted with more youth applications than spots and resounding reviews from those that are taking part in it, to great success. What about some of the world events that have gone on this year? I mean, certainly there are some significant ones, but I'll let you point out the ones that you feel you want to highlight or are worth commenting on that have had an impact on Manitobans and MCC Manitoba.
Darryl Loewen (04:55):
In the international stage, the beginning of last year saw the first anniversary of the acute war in Ukraine and Russia's invasion and that weighed heavily. There being so strong a connection to Ukraine by Mennonite Manitobans as well as, you know, Ukrainian nationals living in Manitoba, that there was a lot of sorrow and lament for the ongoing and still ongoing conflict there. And so there, it continues to draw compassionate hearts and minds on material resource donations and cash donations and the like, and in issuing hospitality for those coming from Ukraine into Manitoba. And then the events from October 7th and onward have been top of mind. What initially was seen to be balanced regard for the violence that took place on the part of Hamas and then the response by the IDF, the Israeli government military was surprising in some ways. Palestine can be polarizing, including in Manitoba as elsewhere. And there was a stronger response of compassion and understanding for every innocent person. We've seen a surge of compassion and donor response to meet the needs of Gazans who are so desperately displaced and violently interrupted. And it's not because there's a lack of regard for Israelis who have experienced some of the same thing, but Israel has resources and is not asking the Canadian NGO community for help. The Palestinians, and we've heard it vividly from Palestinian Christians, are without that help and so we've seen Manitobans responding to it with tears and with generosity.
Kyle Rudge (07:02):
Well, with such world crises, I don't know if it's just my perspective or what, it just feels like they're happening more frequently on a more regular basis. What does that mean for things like refugee acceptance and bringing those that are in need to Canada to live a better life?
Darryl Loewen (07:21):
Yeah, that's a challenge as well, because the ability to bring refugees into Manitoba, hopefully for a life-giving resettlement is limited in some ways by our own capacity. I mean, we cannot staff it, you know, without limitation. And therefore, there's a limitation to the number of newcomers that we can sponsor. That said, Manitoba is among the MCCs, you know, right at the top with others in receiving as many as can. Where we have increased capacity in Manitoba in the last year into 2023, is by the addition of one staff person with dedication to blended visa office referrals. And these are different than private sponsorships in that these refugees registered with the United Nations already have all that the Canadian government can provide for their arrival into the country. So it's not a matter of inviting a refugee and then becoming qualified. These are folks who are qualified and so they can arrive in a matter of weeks. And we've got some churches in the city and in rural Manitoba who are taking up that opportunity. So that's new growth on refugee resettlement in MCC Manitoba.
Kyle Rudge (08:50):
What about for you? Any fun, interesting, moving stories that you've experienced with your work with MCC throughout this year?
Darryl Loewen (08:59):
Yeah, I don't want it to sound like a paid advertisement because it's not, but I've been very close and involved in the relocation project and one highlight that exceeded our expectations was the relationship we had with architects and designers at Number TEN Architectural group. We didn't know it when they were the successful respondent to our request for proposals that they would be just two doors down the street from the location that we ended up because we didn't have that location when the architects and designers were selected, but they've been a delight to work with. They listened to staff and they listened to the steering committee, which had staff and board and a volunteer among us, and got a strong sense of the essence of MCC as we experience it. And they inserted it into the design. And so we didn't have a design meeting or a construction meeting throughout the process that felt anything but collaborative. There were challenges to meet and to solve, but it was a really good experience and the builder and builds and their trades were similarly on board with that project. So that was a real joy.
Kyle Rudge (10:34):
What about some of the programs that exist in MCC Manitoba that perhaps we don't hear about? There are, you know we've mentioned several that are frequent, that are more public facing, but what are some of the things that go on in MCC Manitoba that perhaps don't get the recognition or the publicity that they deserve?
Darryl Loewen (10:52):
Some of the work that's really - the program work that's relational in hard spaces is stuff that's easy to be proud of and it doesn't create a YouTube video very, very well. It's not a social media post. "Hey everybody, guess what we did on reconciliation, or guess who welcomed us into reconciliation this week?" But Indigenous neighbors and Kerry Saner-Harvey in that program has had another terrific year where indigenous partners in the city and in rural Manitoba are tackling, you know, the effects of longstanding imbalance of opportunity and power in their communities. And they're walking together well, and churches are inviting him to come on a Sunday morning and lead us in the blanket exercise, the Kairos blanket exercise, so that we can understand what has been so difficult for indigenous people across 200 years or more. Those are rich experiences, and especially the conversations that follow.
Kyle Rudge (12:07):
Well as we're turning into a new year, 2024, first full year with a new building, it's got a lot of new beginnings. You've got people coming back from mat leave on staff. There's a whole lot of possibility for MCC Manitoba, but what are you most hoping for to see over this next year
Darryl Loewen (12:25):
For our own staff, I'll be looking for a growing sense of a single team with enough proximity to each other to really appreciate what the others' tasks are, not just know about them in abstract. I'm looking for guests to 140 Bannatyne, first time guests to say, "Wow I'm coming back here," because that's what we've heard in the first six months, and that's what we wanna hear, you know? We wondered before moving, would Hutterites who make comforters for material resources by the hundreds and deliver them by the hundreds, would they find their way downtown? Well, the answer is yes. I pray vigorously and I don't know if it's courageously or desperately, I think it's desperately. I desperately pray for more signs of peace in the world. My goodness, when we go so far out of our way and as nation states, when we go to so vast an expense to take life, I pray that we'd spend some time and energy to preserve life and to understand it and to love it. It is after all, the Prince of Peace whom we serve.
Kyle Rudge (14:01):
MCC Threads is produced by Kyle Rudge with story assistance from Nikki Hamm Gwala. Thanks to Darryl for taking some time just before Christmas to sit down and chat about the year that had gone past and MCC Manitoba's, hope for the year to come. I'm Kyle Rudge, and this is MCC Threads.
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