Today we are going to talk with Claire Dunmore, territorial community engagement secretary, Lemoy Whilby, Pathway of Hope regional co-ordinator, Lieutenant Renée McFadden, corps officer at The Willows Church and Family Life Centre, Andrea Petkau, caseworker, Pathway of Hope at The Willows Church and Family Life Centre, all of whom participated in the February online town hall entitled “My community, my responsibility, how to empower citizens to take action to bring about social change."
View the February Community Engagement town hall.
Register for future Community Engagement online town halls.
Brandon Laird 0:00
Hi, my name is Brandon Laird, and you're listening to the Salvationist podcast.
Today we're going to talk with Claire Dunmore, territory community engagement secretary, Lemoy Wilby, Pathway of Hope regional coordinator, Lieutenant Renée McFadden, corps officer at the Willows Church and Family Life Centre, and Andrea Petkau, caseworker, Pathway of Hope at the Willows Church and Family Life Centre, who were all part of a community engagement town hall in February where I got to meet them all, and I participated. We had such a great time, I wanted to have a time where we talked about the event, how it came about, and also how we could get more people to come out and learn about this amazing event that's happening with the community engagement folks. So I'm going to start with Claire. Can you tell us about the name change from integrated mission to community engagement? And how will that help your department align with its mission goals?
Claire Dunmore 0:59
Yeah, we've been the integrated mission department for five, six years now. And to be honest, it seemed to always come with, What does that mean? What does the integration piece mean? And, the explanation that was needed, this just seemed unnecessary. Community Engagement really just resonates with people more easily. Not too much of an explanation needed. How are we The Salvation Army in our communities? How do we behave? How are we thought of? How do we interact? And how are we relevant in our communities? And that's really what our department is about. And it just seemed to reflect who we are and our mandate much more simply and effectively, and more so to the outside world, which is really the most important piece of this.
Brandon Laird 1:53
That's great. I think for our listeners, learning about the name change is part of the changes that are happening with the Mobilize 2.0 project that's happening across the whole territory, and there are multiple changes happening within the organization. And so people are gonna want to check out salvationist.ca website and check out some of the stuff that's happening with Mobilize. Speaking about some of the things that we're changing and trying out, Lemoy, I'm curious if you could tell our listeners what the community engagement town halls are and how they got started.
Lemoy Whilby 2:25
So the community engagement town hall is a safe and a bold space to have conversations to address some of the social issues affecting our communities. And by doing so we raise awareness on the need for community engagement, advocacy, social change, and it provides a forum for us to share strategies to mobilize change. How did we get started? The community engagement townhall was birthed back in 2019. We had our first community forum. So we all converged at Scarborough Citadel to discuss the theme of breaking the cycle of poverty. We had over nine panelists ranging from educators, municipal and provincial government representatives, community partners, and an individual with lived experience of poverty. It was successful, and we made a decision at that time that we would have a community forum at least twice per year. Unfortunately, with the pandemic, we were not able to have a forum in 2020, then we thought, why not make it virtual? And I think that was the best decision we could have made because we were able to engage people across Canada and Bermuda.
Brandon Laird 3:53
As a person who was able to attend the February one, I can see why you're really excited about what this opportunity presents for the community engagement town halls. Renee, you were one of the three presenters at the February town hall. Can you describe to our listeners, how Pathway of Hope has impacted your ministry?
Renée Mcfadden 4:11
Thanks so much. Yeah, we were really excited to participate. And being able to share how Pathway of Hope has actually impacted the vision of our church congregation. And we've been here three and a half years now my husband and I are serving as corps officers and pastors, and the vision of Pathway of Hope coming alongside families and encouraging them to meet their goals, to grow in hope and in their sustainability in their life, their self-sufficiency, and their community connections as well has really made a difference. It's impacted the whole vision of our church as we develop the ways that we will engage with our community. So Pathway of Hope for us will be the model through which we open our community and family services. There are already two food banks in town. So we want to be adding to that and overlapping, but walking alongside families. We wish to embrace our community and fold everyone into the family of The Willows and multiply disciples, leaders and ministries through innovation and mentorship. So doing for the one or a small group of folks what we wish we could do for everyone, and walking alongside families through mentorship. And so we actually trained nine people as part of our team for Pathway of Hope. So employees, but also volunteers from the church congregation who wanted to come alongside to pray for families to uplift them, and to encourage them in reaching their goals.
Brandon Laird 5:41
When I attended the event, there were three different speakers. And you were one of the three speakers. And we got put into breakouts. And I actually had the pleasure of being in Lemoy's breakout with Andrea. And I was just wondering, Andrea, Lemoy, if you could explain to people what happens in the breakouts.
Lemoy Whilby 6:00
The breakout rooms gave participants an opportunity to collaborate. And to have more in depth conversation in smaller groups. As mentioned, the town hall is intended to be a place for dialogue. In a larger group, everyone may not be given an opportunity to share their opinion, or contribute to the discussion. But the breakout room allows for this to happen. The breakout room also enables participants to dissect the information being presented and identify themes that may have emerged from the presenters.
Andrea Petkau 6:41
Well, as a participant, I really found that it was helpful to break out into a smaller group just to discuss what had been presented by the presenters. There was a sense of, I think, ... well, I was with Lemoy and she could probably speak to this as well. But there is a bit of a hesitancy still even within a small group for people to talk and speak out loud together. But I really found that once we started to sort of break the ice with each other, the conversation really started moving. And I think it's really helpful. I mean, if COVID has brought anything, or the pandemic has brought anything to my work, and my position is just being able to learn from different professionals across the country, instead of just within the walls of our Family Life Centre perspective, and what different people are doing in their communities, the tools that they're using to engage, just being able to share that within a smaller group and find out some more hints or clues as to what's working for people, something I found very helpful.
Brandon Laird 7:50
Yeah, what I observed in the group was there was a lot of sharing from personal ministry experience, as well as people learning from each other. So it was really nice to able to hear a presentation, and then take that into these small groups, and people being able to play with that information and learn and also talk about what's happening. And that's what I really appreciate about Andrea, because we had Renee at the front talking about what was happening at the corps. And then we had Andrea who was like a frontline worker. And so she was actually able to amplify what Renee was saying, but also give us some inside track. So for people who were really interested in understanding how the Pathway of Hope program had transformed ministry at The Willows. It was really rich learning for people. And I really appreciate that part and that was why I wanted to do this podcast today. Because this is what people in The Salvation Army should really be signing up for. If they're looking for ideas right now. They're looking for ways to start up again after COVID. There are some successful things that are happening across this country right now that we can help train and lead each other. And that being said, Renee, and Lemoy, what kind of feedback have you heard since the February town hall?
Lemoy Whilby 9:07
Okay for me, I have received all positive feedback. I must say, ministry units have reached out to me to learn more about Pathway of Hope. They want to know how it could be implemented, and how can they be more impactful and intentional with their service in the community. I've also had ministry units reaching out to me because they want to collaborate with Lieutenant Renée. They were intrigued about The Willows' ability to still engage with the community from a virtual platform, even in the pandemic. And I've also had participants—I'm not too sure if these were participants who did not have an opportunity to share in the breakout room—but I got a lot of insight from some of the participants, and also they provided me with ideas as to how I could improve. So I would say it was all positive feedback.
Renée Mcfadden 10:11
Likewise, I've had a few officers, or family service workers who have reached out personally. Can you tell us a little more about the presentation, and what's happening in ministry? And I think some of us were hunkered down in a sense, and just like doing it, and we're not actually sure what is happening across the territory and how people are engaging. And in some of the ways that we're seeking through innovation and to transform ministry and how we engage with our community, we don't even recognize perhaps that it's a bit more outside the box. And the way Pathway of Hope has transformed our ministry is it's given us this vision to engage with our community, as a Family Life Centre, and to walk alongside families. And so that is one of the criteria of how we are using the Pathway of Hope. But it is also helping us to branch out into other services that we can offer for families, it was really organically growing rather than grabbing a model that's been used in other places and implementing it here. So things like child and youth mental health, and how can we provide parents resources for that? How can provide parents resources for finances and budgeting? And so we're looking at, including the CAP money course, Christians Against Poverty. And so we're trying to partner in different ways with our community. And people find that really intriguing. And so that's where the content and the connection is coming, saying, how are you doing this? Where do you find these resources in these programs? And how do you make and build partnerships in your community that serve families?
Brandon Laird 11:50
I can hear the excitement in people's voices when they're talking about it. And it must be music to your ears there, Claire. I have a question for you. How do you think these town halls will help achieve your department's mission?
Claire Dunmore 12:03
While Renée kind of said it. It's getting those partnerships and being relevant in communities. Most of us have heard the saying, that if The Salvation Army building closed down tomorrow, would people know? Would it have an impact? We want to be able to say, Yes, right. We want to be that kind of Army. That's armored and we're ready for our mission. And we're taking on and we're being in community, and we're excited about being a part of community solutions and addressing issues. So the town hall, for me is a way that we at the territory can say, look, you can do these town halls, we're doing them to invite anyone and everyone—volunteers, corps members, everyone's invited to join in. So we want to say it's a safe space for dialogue, where we can come together and find areas that were similar. Things that we have in common, and solutions to issues and concerns in our communities. We need to be part of those solutions as The Salvation Army. So this is a good start for us.
Brandon Laird 13:21
I'm so glad that we were able to get together today on Zoom to be able to do this podcast. The last question I have for you is what possibilities does this type of online community engagement have for the future of The Salvation Army?
Andrea Petkau 13:34
I'm really passionate about the idea of stepping outside of the box. There's been, I mean, there are so many ministry units across the territory that are doing amazing things. And if we aren't able to share and learn from one another or have a platform to do that, unfortunately, we can get stuck in our own slump, perhaps feeling as though things aren't working, or we're not able to move forward in our engagement with the community because we've tried this. We've tried this, it doesn't work. But I really feel that this platform, especially online, with people from all over the country just gives us an opportunity to exchange information and learn from one another and stop that theme of comparison of this is what this ministry and it's doing. How am I ever going to get there? I can't do that. More to a tone of, that's amazing. How can you empower me and how can you help me with the tools I need to move my ministry forward within my own community? That's what I felt was really useful in terms of this town hall, which was my first one to attend.
Lemoy Whilby 14:58
I can see that we're not going back to the old way of engaging, but we are moving forward. So we must become comfortable with virtual dialogue and engagement. I think what this town hall did was to take us out of our traditional way of engaging with this virtual platform. We're certainly able to reach a wider audience, and we're able to spread the message of change. And I'm hoping that as ministry units came on, and they have seen that it is possible for us to engage and to connect, and to build rapport from a virtual place that they too, will be motivated to do ministry, from a virtual place, they too will be motivated to engage the community to engage their clients that they're supporting from a virtual place. So I think we should all be embracing dialogue in a virtual platform because this will now be our new norm.
Renée Mcfadden 16:10
I think it allows us to embrace the power of collaboration rather than a spirit of competition. And I think that when we're drawing from the vastness of our whole territory, you can harness the best that people have to offer and different skill sets, different contexts. But the encouragement and empowerment is not to just replicate what someone else is doing in three provinces over, but it's how can that inspire that seed of inspiration that God can nurture within your own context? Look around you open your eyes. What have you not seen before? And I think that's really what's so valuable. I actually feel way more connected now after this year of 2020, with the territory with Salvationist officers, soldiers employees across the territory because of these kinds of virtual town halls and other digital engagements. And it is equipping us to then minister in our local community in similar ways, we have 14 or 15 online small groups that are happening throughout the week, and some are community-based and some are congregation based, but they're open to people within our country and from overseas.
Brandon Laird 17:27
Thank you, Claire, Lemoy, Renee, and Andrea for coming on the podcast today to talk about the February town hall titled My Community My Responsibility: How to Empower Citizens to Take Action to Bring About Social Change. You can view the video of this town hall by visiting the community engagement website salvationist.ca/community-engagement.
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