By: Ryan King
-with files from Rosalyn Roy
PORT AUX BASQUES – Moving on is never easy for anyone, and for Pastor Maurice Collins, ministry unit leader for the Salvation Army church in Port aux Basques, it is bittersweet. He’s had a significant impact on the town during his tenure over the past four years, and the fruits of that labour will be felt for years to come.
Collins was first commissioned in 2000 as an officer in the Salvation Army. He spent three years on appointments before leaving the ministry for a time, and returned five years ago to continue his service. Prior to being stationed here, he served in Englee on the Northern Peninsula for 10 months. Ministerial appointments are reviewed every April, during what is called the ‘annual move.’
“It works similar to a military thing. You get posted right, and when we come here, we could be here for a year, or we could be here for 10 years. You don’t know,” said Collins.
In April he learned that he was being posted to Clarenville. His last day in Port aux Basques will be June 28. Collins is no stranger to that town either.
“I have family that lives in Clarenville, and it’ll be nice to be around some family sometimes. But like I said, it’s bittersweet. I love it here, and if they asked me to stay another couple of years I would have. But I’m needed elsewhere,” said Collins.
It is not surprising that the congregation of the Salvation Army church has grown during his time here. When he arrived the membership was seven, and at the time of his leaving he estimates there are about 40 members.
His replacements, David and Bev Harvey, will arrive to serve this region the day after Collins leaves. However, since they are arriving from Ontario, they will have to isolate for 14 days. Though they will not cross paths, Collins has prepared a ‘brief’ for the Harveys that outlines the demographics, contact information, and the church’s mission.
“So, the person who comes in can read that and know exactly what is going on,” said Collins.
As he prepares to move, Collins took the time to point out a few highlights from his time here.
“I cannot stress enough how much I’ve enjoyed ministering to this community. The people have been fantastic, very sociable, and very courteous.
“One of the things that has been really nice is that the community has backed the work of the Salvation Army. They really backed the work of the Salvation Army, and we’ve been able to do things because of that support,” said Collins.
One such project that the town came together on was the community kitchen. The project began in Sept. 2017 and was completed in Sept. 2019. The idea for the kitchen came when Collins first arrived and saw many seniors living alone.
“What way could we help them, with their food prep? Because when you are alone by yourself, you don’t want to really cook. And how could we get a healthy meal out to people? And something came across my desk from Foodland Canada, saying that there was money available, in a grant, to enhance food and health to the community. And that’s where the vision grew from,” said Collins.
Once the kitchen opened, Collins and volunteers began serving two meals a week. One on Monday was for everyone, and one on Friday was nicknamed ‘Fryday.’ Additionally, they would also have meals for the students at the high school through a lunch program.
However, during the pandemic they scaled back to serving food once a week on Tuesdays. Despite the pandemic, they continue to feed anywhere from 120 to 135 people healthy meals every week. Oftentimes members of other congregations availed of the kitchen to bring hot meals to those in their own church who need it.
“That was the vision for how it would work, because we want to make sure no matter who you are, that if you are in need, we are there to help,” said Collins.
Collins may not have to undertake such a large project in Clarenville. He said that they have been providing meals there for the last few years, but not at the capacity of Port aux Basques. There are also other challenges waiting for him when he arrives.
The Salvation Army in Clarenville are in the process of moving into a new building that will house the church, the food bank, and the thrift store, all of which he will oversee. He is happy to undertake this challenge and to provide service to his new community.
“There’s one thing about the Salvation Army – when you are appointed to a place, you are appointed to the community. And when you are appointed to the community, the whole community is your church, and you try to meet the needs of the people in your community.”
Another project that Collins helmed during his time in Port aux Basques was the move of the thrift store to a larger facility that also houses the Food Bank. Through the generosity of the community, the new thrift store greatly expanded its selection of clothing and goods.
“I remember last year, during the pandemic, I was at the funeral home ministering to a family, and they looked at me, and said, ‘When is Walmart opening?’ And I said, ‘Walmart?’ ‘Yeah, the thrift store!’ And people consider our thrift store the Walmart of Port aux Basques,” said Collins.
When asked if he had a particular moment from his four years here that would stay with him, his number one choice was feeding the truckers during the pandemic. By feeding the truckers, feeding firefighters during the forest fire of last year, and feeding the community through the kitchen, Collins quickly realized there was a need to bring hot meals to people unable to come to the community kitchen itself. This need led to the idea for a mobile feeding trailer, which sadly he will not see completed before he leaves here.
“We have people that are up in Codroy that can’t get down to get a meal. We have people from Burnt Islands, down to Rose Blanche, that can’t get up and get a meal. So, the purpose of this trailer is to actually bring the meals to them,” explained Collins.
Total time from ordering until delivery of the trailer can range from six to twelve weeks, and he estimates it’s about halfway through completion. Even though it won’t arrive until after Collins leaves for Clarenville, like the rest of his work in this region, the positive impact of his efforts will be felt far into the future. It seems the region has had just as large an impact on Collins.
“I’m going to miss the people. I’ve developed some really nice relationships with people here. I mean, I’ve developed a nice relationship with the mayor, and with Andrew Parsons. I mean, they were even up on the road serving. And that says a lot about your community, when your mayor and your MHA are willing to get in the trenches and help out as well. It says a lot about it to me,” said Collins.