Friendship Community Christian Reformed Church in Toronto recently received a $67,000 grant from the Ontario government for its Hoop to Hope basketball program for boys.
Friendship Community Church started the program in 1999 using seed money from Diaconal Ministries Canada. The program is now run in partnership with other denominations in the Jane-Finch church coalition. The grant money will go to the coalition.
Jane-Finch refers to an area in Toronto that has a reputation for being dangerous and economically depressed.
This grant was part of $3 million given to faith-based organizations that help youths live lives free of violence. In a province where separation of church and state is normal, this partnership between the government and the city’s churches is historic.
Rev. Fred Witteveen, pastor of Friendship Community, noted that to qualify for grant money, the coalition needed a lead black-majority church. “We have three black majority churches,” he said.
“We are attracting resources, people, and money,” Witteveen said. “It is quite a thrilling day.”
The program is run by Benjamin Osei. Osei was deported to Ghana in early 2004 and returned to Canada later that year in a firestorm of national media attention (see Banner, March 2004 and February 2005). He was later recognized for his contributions by the Ontario Legislature.