By Frank Bucholtz/Special to Aldergrove Star
A Christmas dinner for single mothers and their children is the latest in a series of programs and services offered by Acts of Kindness (AOK), a ministry of Church in the Valley.
Church in the Valley operates from a large facility on Fraser Highway, which allows it to undertake many different activities. It is part of the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination. AOK, which is an associated but separate organization and charity, has long focused on services to people in Aldergrove, the eastern portion of Langley Township and the western portion of Abbotsford – whether church members or not.
The dinner, the first in what is hoped to be an annual event, took place on Sunday, Dec. 11. About 145 people were in attendance, and enjoyed a traditional turkey dinner with the trimmings, and dessert. All the cooking, serving and organizing was done by 40 volunteers.
There was also a photo booth, along with Christmas carols, a Christmas story, and gifts for the kids, explained AOK coordinator Sabina Vieira.
The dinner was the latest of several programs offered throughout the year to single mothers.
The Boundaries support group consists of about 20 women meeting Mondays for dinner with three experienced facilitators, a counsellor, teacher and stay-at-home mother.
AOK also offers twice-a-year vehicle oil changes for single mothers, and this year was able to give a car to a single mother in need of reliable wheels.
Another popular event took place in August. It was a spa day, and 16 professionals volunteered their time to make the women feel pampered.
Some new programs are planned for 2023.
For instance, there’s a budgeting seminar planned for January with an accountant, and help with income tax forms will also be offered as tax deadline nears.
AOK also operates a food bank on Wednesdays, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Clients must register and be from Aldergrove-Langley. It serves about 80 to 95 families a week, and demand has grown substantially since the pandemic started, Vieira said.
In addition to food staples, the food bank offers fresh produce to clients.
AOK is planning to offer a depression recovery group, Vieira noting that depression and anxiety is a crippling reality that many people are experiencing, or have recently experienced.
Starting on Monday, Feb. 13, from 7 to 9 p.m., and for eight consecutive weeks, the group will meet under the guidance of Dr. Neil Nedley, who specializes in holistic mental health education.
Information sessions will take place on Jan. 3 and Jan. 9, at 7 p.m. The group will be limited to 40 people.
Registration deadline is Jan. 19. Registration and other inquiries can be made to Dennis Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or to Allison Purdy at 604-514-8335.
AOK also has a partnership with Nightshift Ministries, which assists homeless people in Langley City.
On Thursdays, volunteers from AOK visit the downtown area and provide meals and other assistance to people living on the street. About 25 volunteers regularly take part.
One of AOK’s best-known programs has been Extreme Home Repair, which involves a group of experienced construction workers and a corps of volunteers who come together to completely renovate rundown homes, Vieira explained.
Lorne Brownmiller, the volunteer organizer of the program, has been involved for 18 years, and in that time 25 homes have been completely refurbished.
He said the program hopes to take on another home repair in 2024. It takes about six months of planning to get a project underway. Planning usually begins in November, with the home repairs done in May.
Anyone who is interested in learning more about EHR or getting involved can contact Vieira at email@example.com, or by phone at 604-514-8335.
Vieira, who is an associate pastor at Church in the Valley and oversees AOK, says there are many different programs being offered under the AOK umbrella, and there are plans to offer new ones.
She has been overseeing AOK for almost a year.
Looking back on these in the midst of the busyness of the Christmas season, she said it has been a very meaningful and productive year.
“The work we do is possible because of the passion and involvement of volunteers,” she said.
“They believe in the importance of serving others. I wouldn’t be able to do my job without them.
“The needs are unending. The more I tap into some of these needs, the more I see other needs.”
She explained that the programs AOK offers are meant to help people in need, but they are also crucial for volunteers to feel like they are part of something meaningful.
Looking ahead, she said people who are part of the programs have more desire to connect with others.
Vieira is originally from Brazil and worked in international relations and private sector development there.
She then attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, studying international economics and relations. Following that, she went to Andrews University in Michigan to obtain a masters of divinity degree and become an SDA minister.
She has also lived in Uganda and in Italy, so she has a lot of knowledge and first-hand experience of the world far behind the boundaries of North America.
She enjoys recruiting and encouraging volunteers, who make all the various programs and events happen.
Some new programs are planned for 2023.
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