By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele
Since 2009, McMaster’s MacServe program has been partnering with organizations at global, national, and local levels to create positive social change through community service. The Welcome Inn Community Centre in Hamilton joined the MacServe program in 2013 and together McMaster students and local volunteers have worked towards building a more healthy and resilient community.
As a team of eight staff members and 300 volunteers, the Welcome Inn Community Centre provides programs and services that connect people, combat poverty, and build capacity in individuals and within their community.
“We’re a small but mighty organization,” says Jen Kellner, the Executive Director of the Welcome Inn Community Centre. “It’s a lot of work, but we’ve got lots of volunteers who support us.”
McMaster students have played a role in supporting the larger projects and community initiatives offered by the Centre. “Every MacServe visit has been amazing,” she shared. “We’ve had MacServe students come in and repackage bulk donations of food into smaller portions. The students also repainted our library and computer room. They just ran with it, taking on roles based on their expertise and strengths.”
One year, MacServe even sponsored the Welcome Inn Community Centre’s Christmas, putting together Christmas bowls that included movie tickets and snacks. Jen stressed, “To have a night out as a family like that is huge for our families and not something we could have done alone. It happened because of MacServe.”
While the MacServe program is less than a one-week commitment for students, it offers a needed break for the centre’s regular volunteers and staff. When MacServe students come in, volunteers can take time to relax with their families and connect with community members.
“It’s very encouraging to get that boost of energy from a new group; it just lifts the team and lets them know we’re in this together,” Jen shares.
Most recently, MacServe students volunteered at the Welcome Inn Community Centre’s 50th anniversary celebration. From setting up tables to prepping food and playing with the children, MacServe students helped deliver another successful community social.
“The best part was that the MacServe students stayed to connect with the kids. It wasn’t just about the work; they played water games and ate food with them. It was beautiful to see.”
In addition to the MacServe program, McMaster Open Circles offers mentoring to children grades 1 to 8, helping them with homework and building basic financial literacy skills (a total of 120 McMaster volunteers).
The Welcome Inn Community Centre is eager to continue working with McMaster students and the broader McMaster community:
“We just want MacServe and McMaster University to know our gratitude. Some days are just hard, but knowing that we have that support means we’re not alone. It’s everything.”