My my my! Where to start! We have some VERY exciting things in development for Bags of Love, but first, in honour of our 10 year anniversary approaching (January 2020!) here is a quick recap of how far we've come in the last ten years.
In January of 2010, we began as a small group using our homes as bases, making quilts and bags as often as we could. We covered 4 Child & Family Services offices back then, mostly rural communities which did not have as high of intake numbers as the urban centres.
After an article highlighting our ministry was published in The Country Register, we soon began receiving calls from many community quilting guilds across Alberta, and the quilts came pouring in! We were able to leave the quilt-making portion to our amazing supporters and focus more on Bag construction and delivery. This gave us the confidence to reach out to more Child & Family Services offices, as well as encourage other churches to start their own Bags of Love Chapters!
With the sudden growth of our volunteer base, word of mouth spread and soon we were receiving all kinds of donations from all kinds of people! Schools came on board doing toy collections, truck drivers dropped off their unused soaps & shampoos from hotels, even a biker club did a toy and teddy bear drive! It soon became obvious we needed a single location to house our supplies and build our bags.
We moved to the basement of the Village of Ryley office, but not longer after, the Village began constructing a new building, and we needed were going to need a new spot. Our sister church, the Camrose Seventh-day Adventist church, had recently acquired a new church building with ample room in their basement, and gladly became our headquarters for several years.
By now we had many supporters from many different communities, churches, guilds, businesses, and other organizations, and we felt prepared to contact several Edmonton Child & Family Services offices. We recognized how fortunate we were to have so many people on board, and we hosted a Gratitude Lunch to show our appreciation and gather support as we took the next step into Edmonton.
Our additional chapters of Bags of Love were doing well too. The Ponoka Chapter had made contact with a manager at a Giant Tiger store, who nominated our organization for a community service grant from their company. They ended up receiving the grant of $5000, which went a long way to filling our Bags with toys and other personal items!
The time had come for another move, as we were starting to outgrow our space in Camrose. Each year saw us delivering more and more bags, until we were reaching up to 400 bags per year! The thought of having our own building seemed like a possibility, but the timing just wasn't right. However, God opened another door, and a friend offered a loft space in a repurposed church. From basements to a loft was a nice change, however, we still had to haul our supplies up and down stairs!
As we began to really establish our identity with our own website (through which many supporters made contact), a letter of recognition from the Alberta Government, and word of mouth between social workers and offices, we felt we reached a point to establish a physical presence in our community. The decision was made, and the Ryley Seventh-day Adventist church (our home church) broke ground for the construction of our very own Bags of Love building!
So here we are, almost 10 years later... from one chapter serving four offices to four chapters serving 30 offices! We were told in the beginning, Be Prepared to Be Blessed, but nothing could have prepared us for where God has taken this ministry.
Our next venture is to host our very own quilting retreat this coming spring! Thanks to our many supporters who have brought us this far. We truly wouldn't have made it to where we are without the kindness, prayers, and selfless giving of everyone touched by this ministry.