How The Salvation Army in Burlington is Building New Community Connections

male and female play a board game
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The Community and Family Services team at The Salvation Army in Burlington, Ont. has a clear goal for the community events they are hosting this year. Their objective is for everyone to connect, socialize, and take a break from the screens.

“My personal goal for this year, for all our programs, is to have a ‘look up’ mentality. Everybody should look at each other, away from technology, engage, help relieve stress, mental health and build friendships,” said Laura Oros, director of community and family services.

The event to kick off this initiative for community connection was a family games night held at The Salvation Army’s Burlington Community Church. Over 30 people of all ages attended the event. They had a chance to play various board games and enjoy delicious food and snacks.

“Our neighbours in need who visit our food bank enjoyed the connections.”

“We had a fabulous assortment of games set up for everyone to choose. We all interacted and laughed as we learned new rules. We had a treat table for folks to mingle at and a wide space to stretch and interact,” Laura added.

While many familiar community members attended, there were also some new faces in the mix. This allowed participants and staff to meet new people and build the connections they were hoping for.

“Everyone loved it! Our neighbours in need who visit our food bank enjoyed the connections and some even brought their own game and rule book. We had a wonderful mix of neighbours and a handful of our church family,” Laura said.

“I live on my own, so the connection was super.”

Ken, who is a member of the church and a food bank volunteer, enjoyed the night and said that getting the chance to socialize was great for him.

“I had so much fun, and I am looking forward to doing this again. I live on my own, so the connection was super,” he shared.

According to Laura, one of the focuses of community events such as games nights is to introduce newcomers to new friends. When inviting a newcomer to an event, Laura encourages them to bring a friend who could help translate so they feel more comfortable interacting.

Getting to meet new Canadians allows staff to offer services such as the food bank, the winter coat program, or the back-to-school supplies initiative, that an individual or family trying to kick start their new lives may need.

Thanks to the success of the community games night, the Community and Family Services is looking to build on this by possibly expanding this event in the future or introducing new programs that bring people together.

“Time flew and everyone said they are looking forward to doing this again which gave us awesome ideas to expand it,” Laura said.

By Juan Romero