A pair of young volunteers dig into a large bowl of coleslaw during preparation for a recent community dinner at South Surrey’s Gracepoint Church.

A pair of young volunteers dig into a large bowl of coleslaw during preparation for a recent community dinner at South Surrey’s Gracepoint Church.

‘We’re building a sense of community’

Dinner organizers at South Surrey's Gracepoint Church seeking donated items for those in need

Marie Isaac stands in the industrial-size kitchen, helping her team clean-up after a lunch service for more than 200 people.

In the midst of the clattering, the washing and the laughing, the petite chef calmly tells her team what needs to be done in the hours to come.

For any chef, serving 200 people is a difficult feat, but for Isaac, whose staff is comprised of eager volunteers – many who may not have any kitchen experience – each service hosted at Gracepoint Community Church in South Surrey is nothing short of a miracle.

For the past seven years, Issac has been in charge of the church’s Sunday community dinner service, feeding those in need a nourishing meal with a side of good company.

“The people who come here develop relationships. They find a warm place, acceptance and friendships,” Isaac said. “We’re building a sense of community.”

This year, with the help of Gracepoint community pastor Steve Bains, Isaac hopes to extend the care offered by the church’s annual Christmas dinner next Sunday by filling up backpacks with vital items to help the dinner attendees retain some of the warmth they enjoy at the church.

“We would like to see if the community would like to help provide some gifts for them. Things like socks, gloves, toques and even backpacks. If we could get enough backpacks, we would like to fill them with trinkets and things they need,” Isaac said.

For Issac and Bains, the community dinners provide them an avenue to reach out to those who have no one else and offer up further support and guidance.

This month, the duo is working to break the cycle of dependence that many of the dinner guests are stuck in by asking for people to bring in their pennies and other spare change to fill a jar that will be used to help people in need in Africa.

“The challenge is to fill up a very large bottle and give back, while doing it as a team,” Bains said. “To encourage them to be thankful and realize that there may be somebody else in need that they can help is wonderful.”

So far, the efforts of Isaac and Bains have borne fruit, with Isaac noting there are many stories of people who have completely turned their lives around through the services offered.

Of the many success stories, one in particular stands out for Isaac.

“A woman came to the dinners and I had known her 40 years ago and she was from a well-to-do family.  But she had fallen on hard times. She was suffering from mental-health issues and was living out of her car,” Isaac said.

“She became involved with the church and the services offered and now she is cleaned up. You can see now, she looks much better and more positive. She’s come a tremendous distance from when I saw her a year or so ago.”

Despite the successes they have enjoyed with the people they have encountered, Isaac admits the volume of people coming in has not decreased.

In fact, last year, Isaac noted, there were quite a few Sundays where the dinners had more than 200 guests attending. Feeding a crowd of that size can cost the church at least $500.

“We offer up first-rate food and we want to keep that level of quality. Monetary donations and food donations are always welcome,” she said, adding that last year, she received a donation of $2,000 on Christmas Eve. “It was a wonderful surprise.”

This year’s Christmas dinner service will take place Dec. 23 at 5 p.m.

To donate to the Sunday dinner service or to find out about volunteering, visit www.gracepoint.ca. Items such as toques, scarves, backpacks, etc., can be dropped off at the church located at 3487 King George Blvd., Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.