Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner April 7, 2022
Church Ladies are part of the fabric of our community.
To counter that ghastly report from Statistics Canada that our city was the site of the most hate crimes per capita in Canada which had been reported to police in 2020, at 36 per 100,000 population, one has to do two things: first, absorb the harsh reality, and then resolve to do something about it.
Here is the story of a far more common Peterborough response: the reaching out in practical ways to help, not harm, others. Knowing about some of these acts of goodness, we take heart about our community, and some of us find out about groups or causes that beckon to us.
Lyn Miller and Judy Amsbury are two mature women living on Sherbrooke Street, who for many years have taken up many progressive causes all at once. With humour, determination and humility, they spend their days alleviating hunger and isolation for the most marginalized.
And because they do, others, similarly motivated, find ways to get involved.
I first met Lyn Miller in 1993, when, after 30 years teaching young children at Prince of Wales School, she volunteered to come to a poor rural area of Jamaica with Jamaican Self Help to volunteer as a teacher. Along with a few other Canadians and Jamaicans, she lived at a nearby hilltop house owned by a wise old farmer who held such leftist views about his society, he was affectionally known as “Commie.”
Lyn was beloved by the children for her patience, sense of humour, and affection for their efforts.
Judy Amsbury came to town after growing up in Walkerton and being in business. Perhaps many people will remember the delicious food at Judy’s restaurant on George Street called Ohhh My Goodness (1989-96).
Their zeal for the common good and their love of choral music, have marked their lives here since. Now, decades later, Lyn and Judy have just been named recipients of a Civic Award for Community Betterment, especially in food service to street people, since 2008.
Their group, called The Church Ladies, which now prepares and brings meals every Tuesday to the One Roof Community Centre on Murray Street, includes Evelyn Raab, Sue Masters, Heather Pollock, Jim Glynne, Nasrin Yari, Sister Frances Baker, and Sue Frise.
With typical modesty they tell me the food team offers between 120 and 150 meals each week, counting on donations from the City and R.J Produce, Ennismore Foodland, Emmanuel Church, Trinity United Church and the Sisters of St Joseph.
This is its present form, but Lyn and Judy provide me with the history of food for poor people in Peterborough. It is a long one.
Early volunteers included Goodith Heeney, Kim Naish and Dorothy Boddy. Organizations, churches and the City came together in past times at Brock Mission, St Paul’s Presbyterian Church, at the "In from the Cold" program at Murray Street Baptist Church, the Warming Room Ministries, the Canadian Mental Health Association, and Our Space.
Their colleagues in the work have included Janet McCue, Christian Harvey, Joanne Rowland and others.
“It has always been ecumenical, grassroots, and empathetic,” says Lyn. “We value equity, camaraderie and social concern. And we find fun too.”
Many new volunteers have come forward, including Peggy Abbott, Jo O’Neill, and Sister Ann Macdonald.
From so many years interacting with vulnerable people in Peterborough, Lyn and |Judy have some conclusions about the root causes of the increasing numbers of needy in our city. And what the solutions might be.
They include basic income for all Canadians, and more affordable housing. ‘Tiny Homes” is one program that would make a huge difference in the ways people are living.
Lyn and Judy’s home reflects their convictions. An orange T- shirt imprinted with the words “Every Child Matters” hangs outside. A lawn sign calls for basic income. Inside, wall art and fridge magnets urge everyone to stop and think about change.
Such real and consistent acts challenge Peterborough’s dark side, and, to my mind, contribute to overcoming it.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<