As soon as you walk through the doors at Souls Harbour Rescue Mission – Bridgewater, you immediately feel warmth, acceptance and kindness. It’s a place where everyone and anyone can feel welcome, safe and accepted and its where friendships are made. “If you haven’t a friend in the world, you can find one here, where they offer welcome, hope and dignity to each guest.”
This wonderful drop-in-centre, which will celebrate its 3rd anniversary in July, serves free, nutritious meals at its “Café” from 1-3 pm, four afternoons a week (Mon., Tues., Thurs, & Fri.) Incidentally, on the only weekday its not open i.e. Wednesdays, a free supper is offered at the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 25 Phoenix St. 5:30 p.m. The centre also offers free Wi-Fi, local calling, and pastoral counselling. It’s an interdenominational gospel mission and Vicky Sovie, the manager and chaplain, shares a 10-minute gospel message each afternoon, which, she says “is totally optional.” The centre also celebrates special occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners, and even collects Christmas stockings for guests. They open its doors on Christmas Day.
Up to 40 guests, of all ages, visit the cafe each day; many struggle from poverty, illness, or loneliness issues. The staff and its volunteers are aware that pride can be a barrier to participation, but they encourage all to come enjoy a meal or have a coffee, or share a laugh. “At times it’s a kitchen party atmosphere that serves as a great place to step away from struggles”, says Vicky. The majority of guests walk from all over town, but people from beyond the boundaries of Bridgewater are welcome too, including those who are travelling to the community for appointments, which can be costly.
Souls Harbour Rescue Mission is a not-for-profit charitable organization that is supported by the “kindness of people from Lunenburg County and beyond” says Vicky. It takes 2-3 volunteers each day to run the café in addition to Vicky and Cheryl, the café’s cook. It also depends on donations for the food for meals. “The centre welcomes the donation of grocery store gift cards, toiletries and non perishable foods, in addition to monetary donations,” says Vicky. Just $3.11 provides one hot, nutritious meal.
Vicky retired early from health care and founded Souls Harbour Bridgewater. She said, “This is where God called me to work. It’s street ministry.” I knew the struggles of people in Lunenburg County and their needs, and I felt that this is a way that I could help people.”
Cheryl was inspired by her father, an administrator for a Men’s and Women’s shelter in the US. Both her parents “had a heart to help people, no matter where they come from” and its obvious that they passed along their kind nature and passion to Cheryl and her daughter Victoria, who is serving as the centre’s Summer Intern for 10 weeks this summer. Victoria is a student at Crandall University in Moncton and of the Acadia University Divinity College. She is working towards a Bachelor of Arts, with a focus on sociology, music worship and theology.
No one loves the Souls Harbour Rescue Mission more than Samson, an adorable golden doodle known as the “Love Bucket”. He greets everyone who enters the doors and instinctively knows who needs him the most…and is more than willing to share his love. He won’t let his owner, Vicky, leave their house without him. According to Cheryl, “Samson is a gentle soul, a comforter who makes his rounds to everyone.” He is just one more important reason that guests love this place.
For more information or to contact Bridgewater Souls Harbour Mission: call 902-530-5030; email firstname.lastname@example.org; search @shrmbridgewater on Facebook or check out their website at www.shrm.ca.