It is Monday morning, and The Garage, just on the edge of the Terrace, B.C., downtown core, is open for its weekly food bank distribution. Folks are coming and going, catching up with each other—exactly like the community hub that members of the Terrace Christian Reformed Church envisioned it could be more than a year ago, when “The Garage” was still an empty and shuttered garage, near a low-income housing complex.
Sharon Bandstra is the community relations facilitator at Terrace CRC. She partners with Meghan Kort who serves as the church’s communications coordinator. Both positions were recently created and provide an opportunity for having a direct and active liaison between the church and the community of Terrace.
In June 2021 she was among a group of women who had been meeting, wondering together how they might expand their ministry into the community. A month later the city held an online town hall meeting discussing the growing number of people experiencing homelessness and addictions and the subsequent frustrations this was causing for local businesses. Bandstra and her husband, Sid, were convicted to become part of the community solution. The next three months were a journey of prayer, disappointment, frustration and overcoming fears as they along with others identified a property that might fit to serve the community’s need.
They completed the purchase of a former gas station, 3504 Kalum St., in October 2021—seeing in the garage bays and former convenience store the potential for their dreams to come true. With much prayer, they did. The Garage Team was formed—Bandstra and six others from Terrace CRC with varied gifts and insights for the project. They renovated the space, preparing it for many future uses. They have received legal approval to operate as a nonprofit, "The Garage Community Space Society," and are working on their mission and vision statements.
The now brightly painted and well-lit multifunctional Garage has become home to the Terrace Church’s Food Bank, open Mondays, as well as an expanded program, Outreach Thursdays. The Salvation Army mobile food truck offers bowls of soup while outreach workers from social service agencies, health services, social development, and poverty reduction come into The Garage to connect with anyone looking for information or support. Most recently The Garage was the dropoff for the city’s “Winter Warmth Drive” and now serves as the ongoing distribution site for blankets, sleeping bags, coats, and other winter items for those in need.
Debbie Shaw, a volunteer with the Terrace food bank, helped it transition to The Garage. She’s also on the Garage team and has dreams for a commercial kitchen that could offer food preparation education for those using the food bank.
Joel Ringma, the pastor of Terrace CRC, also serves on the Garage team. He’s grateful for the decision of the church to hire a community relations facilitator, seeing how Bandstra was able to point out deficits in community infrastructure and invite “the church to stand in the gap.” Ringma said, “This has been a powerful witness to the community but also to the organizations and on-the-ground community workers, some of whom have been wowed by the church’s participation in this way.”
Debbie Kroeker, also involved from the early dream stages, said, “At The Garage we are working to reduce the barriers that might prevent people from walking through our doors and experiencing the goodness of God through a cup of coffee. Who knows what The Garage might become, but we are trusting God to lead us to be a beacon of joy, hope, and recovery for our neighbors.”