Reaching out to new friends

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There's music, song and laughter. And while those aren't unusual sounds at church activities, they seem more spontaneous and pronounced when Friendship groups gather at area churches with developmentally disabled adults.

It's a regular occurrence at two Christian Reformed churches in Flamborough. On Monday nights, church volunteers and mentors assemble in Bethel Christian Reformed Church on the eastern fringe of Waterdown and on Thursday nights, their counterparts at Dundas Calvin Christian Reformed Church meet with intellectually challenged adults for a social evening that all participants enjoy.

While the programs are unstructured and informal, they take place in a church setting, which lends itself well to the spiritual development of the disabled, many of whom come from area group homes or private residences in the area.

Coordinators of the Friendship groups admit that the learning and benefits of the weekly meetings are far from one-sided.

"We have learned a whole lot more from them than they have learned from us," Cor Vanderkruk of Bethel Church confided.

"We have discovered something; they are part of our community and we must care for them," he added.

Joanne Heidbuurt, coordinator of the Dundas Calvin group, now in its 22nd year, agrees. Even though there are times when she has felt like staying home and skipping a session, that feeling quickly fades when she arrives at the church and sees the happy faces of the participants.

"They are very loving people. They perk you up," she said.

"The Friendship Club, that's definitely their place to come," Vanderkruk said of the group which he and his wife, Alida, formed four years ago. At first, the group attracted about 15 developmentally challenged. Now, about 35 "friends" attend the weekly meetings.

Singing and music are a big part of the program, which also includes a short Christian teaching.

"The message we want to bring them is simple," Vanderkruk said. "Basically, we want them to know that God loves them and that they are contributing members of society."

The Dundas Calvin group delivers a similar message of hope. The developmentally challenged sing, listen to Bible stories, do crafts or participate in games during club meetings which generally run for about 90 minutes. Sometimes, the group watches a video or goes on an outing to a local bowling alley. They have a Christmas party every year and a barbecue in the early summer.

Friendship Club meetings at Dundas Calvin Church attract about 30 to 40 developmentally challenged adults every week. Volunteers and mentors from the church also come out to take part in the activities.

Friendship groups have flourished across Canada and the United States. Besides the two in Flamborough, there are at least six others in the area, one each in Burlington and Hamilton and four on Hamilton Mountain.

Often, the groups are headed by people who live and work in the community. Vanderkruk, a longtime Flamborough resident, owns Connon Nurseries in Waterdown, while Heidbuurt owns a local restoration business that provides emergency services for businesses and private homes damaged by flood or fire. Both hold only good feelings of their involvement with the Friendship Club.

Vanderkruk sees the group as something "wonderful and worthwhile" in the community. "For many years, we pushed these people into seclusion, but at Friendship Club we offer them a place where they can come and tell us things. It's a place where they can connect," he stressed.

Heidbuurt revels at the popularity of the meetings with the developmentally challenged. "They really look forward to this evening out and they're very disappointed if, for any reason, we have to cancel," she said.

Perhaps the best gauge of the groups' popularity is that all participants feel inspired by the meetings. It becomes much more than sharing faith; it's living it.

Reaching out to new friends

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There's music, song and laughter. And while those aren't unusual sounds at church activities, they seem more spontaneous and pronounced when Friendship groups gather at area churches with developmentally disabled adults.

It's a regular occurrence at two Christian Reformed churches in Flamborough. On Monday nights, church volunteers and mentors assemble in Bethel Christian Reformed Church on the eastern fringe of Waterdown and on Thursday nights, their counterparts at Dundas Calvin Christian Reformed Church meet with intellectually challenged adults for a social evening that all participants enjoy.

While the programs are unstructured and informal, they take place in a church setting, which lends itself well to the spiritual development of the disabled, many of whom come from area group homes or private residences in the area.

Coordinators of the Friendship groups admit that the learning and benefits of the weekly meetings are far from one-sided.

"We have learned a whole lot more from them than they have learned from us," Cor Vanderkruk of Bethel Church confided.

"We have discovered something; they are part of our community and we must care for them," he added.

Joanne Heidbuurt, coordinator of the Dundas Calvin group, now in its 22nd year, agrees. Even though there are times when she has felt like staying home and skipping a session, that feeling quickly fades when she arrives at the church and sees the happy faces of the participants.

"They are very loving people. They perk you up," she said.

"The Friendship Club, that's definitely their place to come," Vanderkruk said of the group which he and his wife, Alida, formed four years ago. At first, the group attracted about 15 developmentally challenged. Now, about 35 "friends" attend the weekly meetings.

Singing and music are a big part of the program, which also includes a short Christian teaching.

"The message we want to bring them is simple," Vanderkruk said. "Basically, we want them to know that God loves them and that they are contributing members of society."

The Dundas Calvin group delivers a similar message of hope. The developmentally challenged sing, listen to Bible stories, do crafts or participate in games during club meetings which generally run for about 90 minutes. Sometimes, the group watches a video or goes on an outing to a local bowling alley. They have a Christmas party every year and a barbecue in the early summer.

Friendship Club meetings at Dundas Calvin Church attract about 30 to 40 developmentally challenged adults every week. Volunteers and mentors from the church also come out to take part in the activities.

Friendship groups have flourished across Canada and the United States. Besides the two in Flamborough, there are at least six others in the area, one each in Burlington and Hamilton and four on Hamilton Mountain.

Often, the groups are headed by people who live and work in the community. Vanderkruk, a longtime Flamborough resident, owns Connon Nurseries in Waterdown, while Heidbuurt owns a local restoration business that provides emergency services for businesses and private homes damaged by flood or fire. Both hold only good feelings of their involvement with the Friendship Club.

Vanderkruk sees the group as something "wonderful and worthwhile" in the community. "For many years, we pushed these people into seclusion, but at Friendship Club we offer them a place where they can come and tell us things. It's a place where they can connect," he stressed.

Heidbuurt revels at the popularity of the meetings with the developmentally challenged. "They really look forward to this evening out and they're very disappointed if, for any reason, we have to cancel," she said.

Perhaps the best gauge of the groups' popularity is that all participants feel inspired by the meetings. It becomes much more than sharing faith; it's living it.

Reaching out to new friends

News Nov 22, 2006 Flamborough Review

There's music, song and laughter. And while those aren't unusual sounds at church activities, they seem more spontaneous and pronounced when Friendship groups gather at area churches with developmentally disabled adults.

It's a regular occurrence at two Christian Reformed churches in Flamborough. On Monday nights, church volunteers and mentors assemble in Bethel Christian Reformed Church on the eastern fringe of Waterdown and on Thursday nights, their counterparts at Dundas Calvin Christian Reformed Church meet with intellectually challenged adults for a social evening that all participants enjoy.

While the programs are unstructured and informal, they take place in a church setting, which lends itself well to the spiritual development of the disabled, many of whom come from area group homes or private residences in the area.

Coordinators of the Friendship groups admit that the learning and benefits of the weekly meetings are far from one-sided.

"We have learned a whole lot more from them than they have learned from us," Cor Vanderkruk of Bethel Church confided.

"We have discovered something; they are part of our community and we must care for them," he added.

Joanne Heidbuurt, coordinator of the Dundas Calvin group, now in its 22nd year, agrees. Even though there are times when she has felt like staying home and skipping a session, that feeling quickly fades when she arrives at the church and sees the happy faces of the participants.

"They are very loving people. They perk you up," she said.

"The Friendship Club, that's definitely their place to come," Vanderkruk said of the group which he and his wife, Alida, formed four years ago. At first, the group attracted about 15 developmentally challenged. Now, about 35 "friends" attend the weekly meetings.

Singing and music are a big part of the program, which also includes a short Christian teaching.

"The message we want to bring them is simple," Vanderkruk said. "Basically, we want them to know that God loves them and that they are contributing members of society."

The Dundas Calvin group delivers a similar message of hope. The developmentally challenged sing, listen to Bible stories, do crafts or participate in games during club meetings which generally run for about 90 minutes. Sometimes, the group watches a video or goes on an outing to a local bowling alley. They have a Christmas party every year and a barbecue in the early summer.

Friendship Club meetings at Dundas Calvin Church attract about 30 to 40 developmentally challenged adults every week. Volunteers and mentors from the church also come out to take part in the activities.

Friendship groups have flourished across Canada and the United States. Besides the two in Flamborough, there are at least six others in the area, one each in Burlington and Hamilton and four on Hamilton Mountain.

Often, the groups are headed by people who live and work in the community. Vanderkruk, a longtime Flamborough resident, owns Connon Nurseries in Waterdown, while Heidbuurt owns a local restoration business that provides emergency services for businesses and private homes damaged by flood or fire. Both hold only good feelings of their involvement with the Friendship Club.

Vanderkruk sees the group as something "wonderful and worthwhile" in the community. "For many years, we pushed these people into seclusion, but at Friendship Club we offer them a place where they can come and tell us things. It's a place where they can connect," he stressed.

Heidbuurt revels at the popularity of the meetings with the developmentally challenged. "They really look forward to this evening out and they're very disappointed if, for any reason, we have to cancel," she said.

Perhaps the best gauge of the groups' popularity is that all participants feel inspired by the meetings. It becomes much more than sharing faith; it's living it.