Influx of Ukrainian and Kurdish refugees turned to Agape in the past year for help

Ninety-five new files for people in need were opened at the English-speaking social services provider

Chomedey-based English-language social services provider Agape had a surge of new applications for assistance in the past year, with an influx of temporary settlers from war-torn Ukraine, but also Kurdish refugees from Turkey who came to Laval after arriving in Quebec through the highly-publicized Roxham Road U.S.-Canada border crossing.

“Agape, being the only English-speaking charitable organization in Laval, had to again scale back requests for Christmas baskets in December 2022,” board president Greg Young and secretary treasurer Elizabeth McLeod wrote in the 2022-2023 report of Agape’s activities, which was tabled June 29 at Agape’s annual general meeting.

‘Stabilization’ not foreseen

“We are not certain to see a stabilization of growth in demand for 2022-2023 due to the economic downturn and continued inflation of prices remaining, war with potential increases of refugees or asylum seekers (Ukrainian or others),” they continued.

From the left, Agape assistant-director/social worker Ian Williams, board member Roderick McLeod, secretary treasurer Elizabeth McLeod, board president Gregory Young and executive-director Kevin McLeod are seen here on June 29 at the Agape Senior Wellness Centre during the organization’s annual general meeting. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

However, on a more positive note, they added, “Our generous English-speaking community, Laval English schools, churches and private companies or individuals and The Laval News, are the reason why we can continue our mission. We sincerely thank everyone for their continued support and look forward to working with you through 2023-2024.”

Many more in need

Since Agape’s last AGM in June 2022, they opened up 95 new files for people in need of assistance. This represents 175 adults (compared to 89 in 2021-22), and 136 (compared to 61) children. Among these, a total of 11 (12 in 2021-22) were single-parent families who were responsible for 23 (19 in 2021-22) children in total.

According to demographics compiled by Agape over the past year, the organization saw an increase in files for asylum seekers who claimed refugee status at an irregular land border.

While there were 12 families of Ukrainian origin out of a total of 51 files, there were many others of Kurdish origin, numbering 29 in all. Ten other families came from diverse countries, including Haiti, Syria, Lebanon, Columbia, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Nigeria, India, Algeria and Mexico.

Senior Wellness success

One of Agape’s most successful projects, the Senior Wellness Centre, underwent “a very successful year” in 2022-2023, with more than 400 membership enrollments now. A variety of activities can be found at the centre, including Tai Chi, chair yoga, exercise classes, health presentations and advanced workshops for iPad users.

Former CFL quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes Anthony Calvillo spoke at nine different Laval schools, as well as to members as at the Senior Wellness Centre as part of an Agape project in the past year addressing mental health issues. (Photo: Martin C. Barry, Laval News)

The Agape Senior Wellness Centre has now expanded successfully to the second floor of an office building on Notre Dame Blvd., with a recreational room for seniors. According to the annual report, this year Agape will be looking to expand its English-speaking Seniors Wellness Centre activities in the hopes of reaching isolated seniors in Laval’s Duvernay district through a new resource centre where one or two wellness activities for seniors will be held weekly.

Another Agape project last year, for the support and promotion of mental health, received funding from the CHSSN (Community Health and Social Services Network) through the Public Health Agency of Canada. As part of the project, former CFL quarterback for the Montreal Alouettes Anthony Calvillo spoke at nine different Laval schools, as well as to members as at the Senior Wellness Centre to share his personal experience and struggles to inspire children and youths who may also be having mental health issues.

Agape’s annual fundraisers

Apart from the subsidies and grants of money Agape receives from governments and other agencies throughout the year, the organization holds three important fundraisers. Last year’s John and Lois Hashimoto Annual Memorial Walk raised a total of $5,207. This year’s event will take place on Saturday Sept. 16 at 11 am, beginning at 3950 Notre Dame Blvd. in Chomedey.

Another fundraiser, the Denise Williams Annual Seniors’ Love Walk, was held earlier this year on Feb. 17 and raised $5,626. The next Love Walk will be taking place on Feb. 16, 2024 from 8:45 to 9:30 am, indoors at the Centre Laval Shopping Centre. (An added perk: Longtime board member Roderick McLeod always picks up the bill for a complimentary breakfast afterwards at Nickels.)

Christmas fundraiser returning

Agape’s third major fundraiser, the Agape Annual Fundraising Christmas Dinner, hasn’t been held since 2019, because of the gap created by the three-year-long Covid pandemic. However, it will be back this year on Nov. 10 at 6 pm at the Embassy Plaza congress centre on Curé Labelle Blvd., where well-known Montreal-area standup comic Joey Elias will be top-billed, with support from fellow performer Carly Baker and MC Franco Taddeo. As profits from this fundraiser are going to Agape’s English-speaking Senior Wellness Centre, SWC members can take advantage of a $5 discount applicable to a ticket purchase. For more information on tickets and donations, contact Barbara at (450) 934-1122.