INNISFAIL - Heather Kallman knows a great idea for helping others when she encounters one.
She is a longtime congregation member at Innisfail’s historic 131-year-old St. Mark’s Anglican Church, reportedly one of the oldest historic structures in Alberta and likely the oldest church building still standing between Edmonton and Calgary.
Helping others in need has always been in the forefront of every member’s heart and soul, especially during the Christmas holiday season.
Hallman saw a Facebook post from the American state of Arkansas about the creation of Blessing Bags to help a community’s must vulnerable.
These bags contained many items, such as toques, mittens, shaving cream and tooth brushes, to help the less fortunate get through tough times.
Hallman believed the Arkansas initiative would be a welcome fit for her church’s spiritual ideals, especially for the 2023 holiday season; a joyous time of giving.
Every year a special day just before Christmas is set aside for the church to host its Annual Fellowship Supper, an event for congregation members, their families and friends to celebrate faith with a wonderful meal.
This year the special supper was held at the church during the evening of Nov. 23.
Most importantly, however, the supper is held in conjunction with donation presentations to representatives of five worthy local and area non-profits.
But this year was extra special with a the announcement that 50 Blessing Bags were created for The Mustard Seed in the City of Red Deer.
They were donated for the Mustard Seed to hand out to 35 vulnerable men and 15 women; a church effort that was supported with donations totalling $1,200.
“Part of the purpose of the Christian faith is very much that you need to be giving back to the community, and recognizing that is something that is important to be recognized,” said Edmund Barker, the bishop’s warden at St. Mark’s who has been with the church for more than 30 years. “In the Bible you don’t want to just say, ‘Oh, blessing on you and be happy.
“You need to go out and physically do things, and this is the thing that we can do.”
Hazel Ray, the church’s new people’s warden since last April, said her church’s commitment to giving and helping those less fortunate has never been more vital than it is today.
“I think it's definitely more so this year than ever before,” said Ray. “It’s because of the economics right now. Things are tough for young families.”
Along with the Blessing Bags, the church also handed out five $1,000 donations to representatives of the Innisfail Christmas Bureau, Innisfail and District Food Bank, Youth Positive Assets Coalition, Red Deer’s Ronald McDonald House and the Central Alberta Humane Society.
“This means a lot. This year a lot of people are struggling,” said Sue Haddow, donations coordinator for the Innisfail Christmas Bureau. “The Christmas Bureau has been around Innisfail for years and has supported many families. Last year it was close to 400 families the bureau supported, and we see that number more than likely growing this year.
“This money will go towards that and we'll make a lot of kids and families happy.”