Community rallies for youth as freezer melts down

HAMILTON, ON - An outpouring of generosity in response to a freezer meltdown at Living Rock has warmed the hearts of staff and volunteers at the 26-year-old ministry.

"People responded almost immediately," says Karen Craig, whose husband Alan founded the street-affiliated youth outreach in 1985. "We were extremely surprised and blessed."

The freezer, which stores enough food for 900 meals each week, broke down in the middle of summer, when donations are lowest and the need for food highest.

"It was an unfortunate incident," says Julie Conway, open access manager for Living Rock. "Instead of allowing the items in the freezer to spoil, we were able to donate it to other agencies throughout the community who could use it," Conway explains.

And in return, the community - which had been informed of the breakdown by local media - responded in an outpouring of gifts.

"They say Hamilton is a generous city," says Alan, executive director and ordained minister. "We have seen that generosity put into action."

Individuals and businesses were quick to offer money and online donations, as others pulled up to the ministry with carloads of food and clothing. Living Rock's street-youth, ranging in age from 13 to 25, helped to unload the gifts.

"Churches, individuals, other non-profits and organizations gave out of what they had to help lessen the loss," says Karen. "Near and far, big and small, the donations both of food and finances came to support youth-at-risk."

Today, says Alan, the ministry's needs have been met. "The freezer bill is paid. The freezer and food bank are full. We are planning for longer-term solutions. We want to say thank you!"

Fenwood Farms, founded by John and Carol Fennema of Ancaster, was one of many businesses to give.

"It is a pleasure to help out an organization such as Living Rock," says Carol, who donated free-range chickens. "Youth need good mentors during their teen years... Living Rock provides structure and boundaries."

More than that, however, the two-building outreach run by 30 staff and 50 volunteers seeks to share God's love.

"Some of the youth that we work with may be the hardest and most damaged population of our society," says Alan. "At times, it seems like the change is slow. But I can also tell you stories of youth whose lives have been changed."

Once at-risk himself, Alan - now a father of two - has a heart for Hamilton's young people. Today he runs a breakfast program, food bank, chapel on Wednesday nights, Freestyle Fridays for young musicians, as well as an evening coffeehouse through Living Rock. Reaching 60 to 200 kids per day, the ministry is open seven days a week.

And, thanks in part to the generosity displayed this summer, "I believe the Rock is going to continue for many years to bring quality service to Hamilton."

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