Organization on a Mission to show Ridgetown how kindness R.O.C.K.S.

A local organization is looking to close the gap within the community by partnering with people through leadership, advocacy, mentorship and generosity.

R.O.C.K. Missions (Reach Out Chatham-Kent) is looking to help homeless people who need food or basic necessities.

The organization provides outreach to those experiencing homelessness or precariously housed. They strive to build relationships, provide resources, and be a community connection for disconnected people.

“We find people, assess their needs, and connect them with community services,” said Renee Geniole, Operations Coordinator.

Geniole added there are a ton of marginalized people in the community who are disconnected.

“We want to find those people, and at the very least provide them with a connection to our organization, and potentially reconnect them with any service who can provide support and/or help,” said Geniole.

R.O.C.K. Missions has no fees, and the services offered are free of charge.

Currently, the program goes out into the community five times a week, including Tuesdays and Saturdays in Chatham, Wednesdays in Wallaceburg, Mondays in Blenheim and Fridays in Ridgetown. Geniole said they bring lunches, harm reduction, hygiene, first aid, and commitment.

“We do this to connect with our communities’ homeless/housing insecure individuals,” said Geniole. “We currently serve a total of 520 unique individuals each week. Our purpose is to engage with these individuals, build relationships, and walk with them in their individual journeys.”

Other services include harm reduction, health card replacement, emergency food hampers, Hep C testing and Peer 2 Peer Programming.

Alana Haines has volunteered for Rock Missions for two years in Chatham, serving people experiencing homelessness, those who are vulnerable and those suffering food insecurity.

Recently, Haines, with the help of R.O.C.K. Missions, is leading the charge as the organization expanded to Ridgetown and Blenheim to serve more of the Chatham-Kent area.

“I realized an expansion of Rock Missions was vital to Chatham-Kent,” said Haines, who said part of her mission is to serve the people. “I want to do it. I want to be God’s hands and feet, going out and serving the people. With our time, we’re supposed to serve others. I’ve always been a server of other people.”

She said her thoughts are that no one goes hungry, and everyone knows the world is a better place with them in it.

“I personally go out to bring the full lunch bags, treats, harm reduction, clothes, hygiene to houses, hotels, geared to income and sometimes to tents, sheds and cars,” said Haines.

The former pastor said she helps a lot of people by dropping off clothes, blankets, personal hygiene products and other items. She highlighted the importance of not judging a book by its cover.

“We had to be really aware of who’s out there and not judge because of how they look,” she said. “We need to look at people as a person. We all have issues.”

While helping a large number of people on a daily basis, Haines said she has a lot of help to make the program successful. She admitted it takes a village, highlighting the fact volunteers and helpers make a major difference.

“I am currently working with Carol Shaw, who helps make sandwiches,” she said. “I am so blessed to have her wisdom and support.”

Haines said anybody is capable of volunteering and making a difference. She added she has the occasional help of a pharmacist, a woman who lives in Chatham and a mom from Ridgetown, who helps get the food boxes ready for delivery in Ridgetown.

“I want people to see that it’s joyful and not a hardship,” said Haines.

In order to grow and help more people in need, Haines said she desired to gain the people’s trust in these areas.

“At present, we have around 70 clients and know this number will increase with the prices of rent, food and the colder weather,” she said. “Some of the clients are sleeping in tents, cars and wherever they can find a dry, comfortable location. The cost of food is rising so quickly that people are eating less and less wholesome foods.”

Haines said she is thankful and blessed to be able to be working at Mt. Zion in Ridgetown. She said it has been the centre where she makes sandwiches, bags the lunches and often hands out clothes and blankets to those in need.

While currently helping a large number of people, Haines said her dream is to have a drop-in centre, Thursday afternoons from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. for those wanting some company, warmth from the cold, a hot drink, a sandwich or a snack.

“Now, this is just my dream. I want to work collaboratively with other services that offer help to the people in these areas. We must work together to provide help to all those in need during these difficult days. All people matter,” said Haines.

Those interested in learning more information on R.O.C.K. Missions and the services available are encouraged to visit www.rockmissions.com

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News