Capt. Kevin Elsasser, pastor at the Salvation Army, and other Sonshine Lunch Club volunteers in the kitchen at St. George’s United Church. File photo

Courtenay supports church renos, lunch program

Council approves $25,000 request from St. George’s United

Courtenay council approved a $25,000 contribution to St. George’s United Church to facilitate kitchen and washroom renovations, which will greatly benefit the Sonshine Lunch Club. The money will come from gaming funds.

Consisting of volunteers from five churches, the club (soup kitchen) has been serving hot meals five days a week out of the St. George’s kitchen for 23 years. More than 100 homeless and marginalized individuals show up each day.

“They serve meals 250 days of the year,” Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton said at the April 15 council meeting.

The kitchen no longer meets all Health and Safety Authority requirements, and the dated washrooms are not wheelchair-accessible.

“I’m very supportive of the Sonshine Lunch Club, and I think it’s absolutely critical that we make sure it keeps going,” Coun. David Frisch said.

The church missed the City’s application deadline for the grant-in-aid program, which capped 2019 payouts at $15,000. Frisch noted that St. George’s had also applied to Cumberland for a modest amount, and to the electoral areas.

Coun. Doug Hillian had some reservations about approving the request, considering the City grants churches a significant tax exemption.

“There may be some potential downside if we start making these types of exceptions,” Hillian said. “But that reservation is tempered by my acknowledgement that this program effectively works as a social service program in our community, and it provides a huge benefit to people who wouldn’t get a decent meal during the day if it was not for this program,” Hillian said. “On that basis, as a one-time request, I’m happy to support this.”

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