Meet your neighbours: Vernon's Upper Room Mission opens a window to clients, staff - InfoNews

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Meet your neighbours: Vernon's Upper Room Mission opens a window to clients, staff

Glenn Shirey is one of many sharing their story with Faces of the Upper Room Mission.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Upper Room Mission
April 26, 2019 - 7:00 AM

VERNON - With stunning portraits and powerful prose, Faces of the Upper Room Mission is a social media initiative that gives a glimpse into the lives of the people who frequent the well-known charity.

But to the guests, volunteers and staff, Faces of the Upper Room Mission is more than just Facebook posts, its purpose is to show the wider community what the Mission is and to lift the stigma often associated with it.

"It's a way to show that the people who come here are people," Upper Room Mission general manager Cera Brown says. "Once you spend time here and you get to know the guests, and you get to know their stories, you'll find the guests have all lived a life prior to the life they have now."

Launched one month ago, Faces of the Upper Room Mission shares the stories of the Mission's guests, volunteers and staff. From the face of the Mission's cook Rita Evans, who shares her story of being a former alcoholic; to Brianna Healey who is transitioning from "the man she was to the woman she'll eventually become," the stories attempt to break through the stereotypes. Glenn Shirey's story tells of how an accident in 1997 left him in a coma for 30 days and waking up he had the mental capacity of a 14-year-old. Prior to the accident, he was heading "to jail." He's now spent more than 20 years rebuilding his life. And volunteers are covered too. Thomas Head is the Mission's driver, collecting daily donations from local businesses.

Brown describes the stories as "empowering, heartbreaking, honest and raw... they don't sugarcoat things."

It takes a great level of courage to come out and share the personal details of your life. Brown says people are hesitant, but ultimately believe in the Mission.

"They trust us," she adds.

And Brown isn't exempt from telling her story either. She has a post too.

Now in its 39th year, the Mission is a landmark in the city and is often thought of like a soup kitchen. But along with the three meals served daily, Brown says the Mission is so much more. She hopes the Faces of the Upper Room Mission changes perspectives.

"It's to debunk what people actually think goes on here. We don't have drug deals going on all day or RCMP here and fights happening. That's not what happens here," she said.

People come to the Mission to seek out help, she says.

"Whatever that happens to be."

From the half-a-dozen regulars who turn up every morning to play cards and drink coffee, to those needing laundry services or help to get back on their feet. From the senior who visits from their retirement home to collect bread for them and their neighbours to the small business owners trying to make ends meet, the Mission is a place where people come to be part of a larger community, Brown says.

Brown hopes the Faces of the Upper Room Mission will lift the stigma, put a face to the marginalized and those who straddle the poverty line, and give the public a better understanding.

Read Faces of the Upper Room Mission here.

Rita Evans has run the Upper Room Mission's kitchen for more than a decade.
Rita Evans has run the Upper Room Mission's kitchen for more than a decade.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Upper Room Mission

Upper Room Mission general manager Cera Brown.
Upper Room Mission general manager Cera Brown.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Upper Room Mission

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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