For the past month, Rev. Allen Tysick’s booming voice has been missing from the breakfast program at Our Place Society.
Tysick often helped out behind the counter, telling jokes and singing songs to help lighten the load for the people waiting in line for eggs or oatmeal.
On April 15, Tysick quietly wrapped up his duties at the drop-in centre on Pandora Avenue – almost three months ahead of his official last day – and departed with a small gathering with his staff and no media fanfare.
“The finances aren’t great,” Tysick said of his reason for leaving early, by taking his accrued vacation. “It just gave me that time when income is coming in to set up a new society.”
As executive director of Our Place, Tysick worked long hours to balance his high-level duties and still maintain a personal connection to the clients by handing out coffee and doughnuts to people sleeping in the street, and helping out during the breakfast shift.
It’s this love of personally connecting with the poor, homeless and vulnerable that will guide his next ministry.
“I’m looking at a ministry downtown that would really be with the men and women who are the most destitute on the street,” he said from his home in Sooke.
“A lot of them have been barred from various places – including Our Place – for good reasons. I want to be able to visit them in jail, making sure they don’t go from jail to the corner, from hospital to the corner.”
At this time, the details of this new ministry are scant. He won’t share his ideas for a name and specific mandate until approved by the United Church of Canada. But one thing he knows for sure: “I don’t want to do something that somebody else is already doing.”
Operations at Our Place are also evolving.
Early this week, the board of directors announced it hired a new executive director.
Sandra Danco will be leaving the helm of the Edmonton Women’s Shelter to replace Tysick. She takes over her new duties July 4.
Danco, who has an education in social work and theology, brings 20 years experience in the field.
As executive director of the women’s shelter in Edmonton since 2001, she expanded services to include the first shelter for immigrant women in Canada.
“One of the things we’re going to be working towards is having (Our Place) open seven days a week, and longer hours, 12 hour days, to meet the needs of the people,” Danco said, from her office in Edmonton.
“It’s unfortunate that right now, there’s no place for the family to go on weekends.”
This expansion has long been Tysick’s mission. Despite tirelessly advocating for more funding, however, the operating grants never materialized. A 7 a.m. breakfast program, launched in 2010, is under threat of closing June 30 due to a lack of operating dollars.
But a new strategy is already in place.
Since Tysick’s departure, interim executive director Gail Snider has introduced a more diversified fundraising strategy.
“There has been a shift to a bit more of a professionally-based direct mail-out model … mirrored after a fundraising model from the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver,” said Snider. “How that all plays out depends on how our new executive director chooses to follow that path.”
Danco said she’s prepared to examine fundraising opportunities when she arrives.
“(I’ll) look at ways to encourage the people to open the doors literally,” she said. “People can see a concrete need and they can address that need. And that’s the most exciting part about this – this is a concrete day-to-day life need … That’s been my experience working in women’s shelters. People just get such satisfaction from being able to fill a gap, to make life better for a person or more people.”