Local Doctor’s Roundtable Discussion

As an ear to the community, we hear that people have lots of questions about COVID and vaccines and we continue to help find and share information on these topics.

A round table discussion with local doctors on the status of COVID in East Elgin on the radio is now available for listening on-demand as a podcast on our website.

Our Executive Director, Eddy Rempel, hosted this panel, presenting questions about COVID-19 and vaccines to a panel of 3 local physicians:

1. Dr. Jillian Toogood, family physician at East Elgin Family Health Team who often provides care in the area of women’s health;

2. Dr. Douglas MacPherson, an infectious disease specialist at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital who has participated in various projects with the World Health Organization; and

3. Dr. Michael Toth, former head of the Ontario Medical Association, and also a practicing physician in Aylmer for 35 years.

This discussion aired several times earlier this month on De Brigj. The podcast starts with a Low German summary, and the English discussion starts at the 6:15 mark.

If you missed it, listen on-demand on our website: 21-12-06 Dit & Daut – Mennonite Community Services of Southern Ontario (mcson.org)

Generous Donors Support MCS

Thank you so much to everyone who donated or helped share the word about our Matching Campaign! Your generosity is so appreciated!

Your donations given during the Matching Campaign will make a huge impact and your generosity surpassed our goal! Over $16,000 came in!

In total with the gifts of the anonymous two local businesses committed to matching up to $15,000 each, over $46,000 was raised for the work of MCS in our community.

Thank you to the individuals, families, and businesses for blessing the work of supporting and integrating newcomers in our community. God bless you!


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Final Thrift Donations Receiving Day of 2021

We look forward to receiving your donations Saturday, December 18, from 10 am – 4 pm. This will be our last donations receiving day of 2021 at the Aylmer Thrift Store, 300 Talbot St. W, Aylmer, ON.

If you have a large load, or large items, such as furniture, please give us a call ahead of time (519-765-1356), and please arrive by 3:45pm to allow time for unloading.

A very big thank you to all for your cooperation and your patience in following our drop-off guidelines (available on our website, www.mcson.org) and waiting your turn to make your drop-off. Thank you for continuing to keep our donations receiving a safe experience for all!

Stay tuned for an announcement at the end of the month about our new January 2022 donations receiving hours!

Two Donations Receiving Days left at Aylmer Thrift Store in 2021

Put on your jingle bells and hustle your sleigh on over to our last two donations receiving days of the year! 🔔🦌🛷

We look forward to receiving your donations Saturday, December 11, and Saturday, December 18, from 10 am – 4 pm.

A very big thank you to all for your cooperation and your patience in following our drop-off guidelines (available on our website, www.mcson.org) and waiting your turn to make your drop-off. Thank you for continuing to keep our donations receiving a safe experience for all!

Stay tuned for an announcement at the end of the month about our new January donations receiving hours!

MCS Matching Campaign Nov 30-Dec 14

Giving Tuesday kicks off the MCS Matching Campaign!

All donations made to MCS from Tuesday, November 30 – Tuesday, December 14, will be matched by TWO very generous local businesses, up to $15,000 each! This means that your gift is tripled! If you give $25, MCS will receive $75, if you give $100, MCS will receive $300, or if you give $500, MCS will receive $1,500! MCS has continued to adapt and provide services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve helped over 2,000 people in our last fiscal year, including many families with documentation and accessing health care. We supported people through job losses and job searches. Dozens of women, children, and babies received support in developing English language and life skills, nutrition, and pre- and postnatal care, all the more needed during pandemic restrictions.

In addition, radio listeners felt less alone when they heard inspiring music and uplifting programs through Radio De Brigj CHPD 105.9FM. And, we reached out to support seniors during times of isolation. These essential services depend on your support.

Because of the pandemic, we have not been able to hold our usual fundraising events: the Annual Banquet in the spring, the Annual Auction and Food Fest that normally happens in June, and our Thrift Store was closed for long periods of time. This has had a significant negative impact on our funds. We invite you to support us and give the gift of helping others this Christmas!

You can donate online, at www.mcson.org, in-person at the Aylmer Resource Centre, 16 Talbot St. E in Aylmer, by mail to 16 Talbot St. E, Aylmer, ON N5H 1H4. Donations over $10 are tax receiptable. We invite you to call us at 519-765-3020 if you have questions.

To help these essential programs continue to be provided in our community and to have your gift matched before December 14, we invite you to visit the Donate page on our website!

Community Spirit Award Presented to Former MCS Executive Director Abe Harms

The Aylmer & Area Chamber of Commerce Community Spirit Award is all about recognizing local organizations and business members that truly exemplify community spirit.

It is our privilege on behalf of Bakery Tilly Trillium LLP to present the 2021 award to Abe Harms, formerly of Mennonite Community Services.

Mennonite Community Services(MCS), Program Director Anna Bergen sent us the following details in recognition of Abe’s background.

“He has a long history of connecting with the different Mennonite Church leaders and business leaders. This helped him in his role here. He was hired to take the existing MCC programs and create an independent registered charity. He did that even though it took much longer than anyone expected. His leadership and passion for the Mennonite people has had a tremendous impact on MCS. He was instrumental in getting the radio set up here at MCS along with developing the employment services partnership with Aylmer Community Services. He also built community and agency connections quickly which built trust and strengthened relationships. He advocated not only for the Mennonites and other newcomers but also advocated for community agencies to the Mennonite populations.

He is a lifelong learner, a visionary leader, and a fountain of information on a very wide range of topics. His hobby is woodworking. I know he creates beautiful bowls and some home décor items often using leftover wood scraps. One year all staff at MCS received a small desk clock for their birthdays from him. I remember a few were shaped like a baseball. He is also a very proud father and grandfather.”

Congratulations to Abe Harms and thank you for your dedication!  Abe retired from MCS in August 2020 but his work in our community continues and for that we are grateful.

In recognition of the dedication Abe has shown to improving our community, the Aylmer office of Baker Tilly Trillium LLP, Chartered Professional Accountants will make a donation on his behalf to a registered charity of his choice.

To read more about Abe’s history, you can find his musings here: https://www.mcson.org/2021/musings-from-the-outgoing-ed/?fbclid=IwAR1CpfhHnW05GqZE8qP1vpHTAHZWkDTsxQ_IQjgkiAkMje_FaU-UbH5i_RE

Submitted by the Aylmer & Area Chamber of Commerce

MCC Peace Buttons

MCC Peace Buttons are available for purchase for just $1.00 each at the Aylmer Resource Centre Front Desk.

These red buttons date back to 1989, when a pastor in Ontario suggested that MCC share a message of peace during the Remembrance Day period. MCC Ontario embraced the idea and the simple message “to remember is to work for peace” was born. 1

As our nation remembers the atrocities of war and the many lives given and taken, we invite you to wear the peace button and to remember all people who are affected by war. It could be worn in addition to a poppy pin.

The Aylmer Resource Centre is located at 16 Talbot St. E, Aylmer, ON. Hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm. Closed 12:30pm-1pm for lunch. Open late until 7pm on Thursdays.

1. Source: Peace buttons | Mennonite Central Committee Canada (mcccanada.ca)

October Greetings from Our Executive Director

By Exective Director Eddy Rempel

Eddy Rempel started in the position of Executive Director for MCS in August, 2021. We invited Eddy to share some greetings.

As the newly appointed executive director of Mennonite Community Services, it is a great privilege to join in the work of inviting newcomers into our community.  Building on the work of visionaries over almost half a century, Abe Harms built MCS into an organization to advance the programs that help the newest, and often most vulnerable, in our community.  Today MCS is equipped to continue the work of providing specialized services, advocating for Plautdietsch-speaking newcomers, and helping other organizations serve newcomers that have arrived in our area.

We are grateful that in these days of COVID restrictions, when our seasonal fundraising events had to be cancelled for 2 seasons, many of you stepped up with gifts of cash, product for the Thrift store, or the purchase of radio ads.  Volunteers continue to donate their labour so Thrift Store sales can fund our other programs.    I am very proud of our staff who found innovative ways to serve our clients, while overcoming linguistic and technological barriers.  And I am glad that federal and provincial funding continued to flow, when our delivery methods had to be modified.  

However, the cancellation of two seasons of fundraising events and the closure of the Thrift Store for extended periods, have removed several hundred thousand dollars from our coffers.  These funds are critical for the services not covered by government grants.

MCS helped over 2,000 people in our last fiscal year. We helped many families with documentation and accessing health care. We supported people through job losses and job searches. Dozens of women, children, and babies received support in developing English language and life skills, nutrition, and pre- and postnatal care, all the more needed during pandemic restrictions.

In addition, inspiring music and uplifting programs through Radio De Brigj CHPD 105.9FM radio reduced loneliness of listeners. Additionally, staff reached out to support seniors during times of isolation.

As we celebrated Thanksgiving this month with family, we would be remiss to forget what has come to light about tragedies experiences by native children at residential schools.  This September 30, we commemorated the first official National Day for Truth & Reconciliation.  The orange shirts remind us of the orange shirt that was taken from Phyllis Webstad on the first day of school.  We celebrate the opportunities of newcomers that we welcome to our neighbourhoods.  And we know that some of these opportunities were built on the heartbreaks of our native peoples. 

May God bless you as you give thanks.

The Bueckert Family’s Story

“Congratulations and welcome to Canada!”

These were the words pronounced by the Canadian Citizenship official that drew a bright smile from Heinrich Bueckert at his August 23rd virtual citizenship oath ceremony. An eruption of applause followed, as well as the waving of hands from Henry’s wife sitting beside him in the MCS office and from the other official on the screen. There was a sense of relief and excitement. Up to that point in the whole ceremony, Heinrich sat respectfully still, paying close attention to the instructions coming from the screen.  Due to COVID-19, in-person ceremonies are suspended, so MCS had offered to help him set up this virtual appointment with citizenship officials. It has been a long journey since April 27, 2019, when Heinrich and his wife Katharina arrived in Canada for the first time.

MCS staff recently sat down and visited with Heinrich and Katharina about what the last two to three years have been like. Their main reason for coming to Canada was financial. Heinrich and Katharina experienced many blessings in the Mennonite village in Durango, Mexico, where they used to live. It was home: where they grew up, where they met, where they married, and where they welcomed six children into their embrace. But finances were tight. They remember the stress of working and working but gaining very little. They couldn’t keep up with their payments. They owned a few head of cattle but the income was insufficient for a growing family. They also felt it was important to ensure their children had opportunity to become Canadian citizens. They realized their children may wish to live and work in Canada at some point. So, in 2018 Heinrich and Katharina began preparing to immigrate to Canada.

As is the case with many Low German families, Heinrich and Katharina had Canadian ancestors.  Because of these ties, they had Canadian Citizenship certificates even though they had never been to Canada themselves. During their preparations to move, it became apparent that Heinrich’s document might not be valid. There had been some talk in the village about renewing Citizenships before he turned 28, but nothing had been very clear about whether it applied to him.

Regardless of the uncertainty of Heinrich’s citizenship status, they were willing to take a risk to move for a better future for their children. They hired a driver to drive the family to Ontario. Katharina remembers the difficult adjustment after they arrived. Heinrich’s income from his job on a farm was much higher than in Mexico but so were the expenses.

“People talk about earning thousands of dollars. But they don’t always tell you how expensive everything is,” Katharina says.

And then there were the daily tasks she had to relearn, like going shopping for groceries. She recalls walking into a store and the clerk asking her if she wanted a bag.

She had not understood what they said or known how to respond. It was overwhelming.

It was a great help when they began receiving family benefit payments. Shopping for necessities was also easier once Heinrich got his Ontario Driver’s Licence and they did not have to rely on rides, after MCS staff helped him find a way to translate his Mexican Licence. After a few months, they also moved into a home with cheaper rent which also helped out a lot. They are very grateful to their landlord for the opportunity to move into the house where they are living and all of the people who helped them along the way.

In October 2019, Settlement Staff sat down with Heinrich to discuss his citizenship status. It was hard to hear that his citizenship had indeed expired on his 28th birthday. Staff were able to walk him through the process of applying for a Resumption of Citizenship and Permanent Residence for the youngest children.

During the same fall, their children began attending school.

Katharina also remembers how happy and excited her children had been in November of 2019 when the big yellow school bus picked them up to go to South Ridge Public school.

“The children like it here more than we do, so much better than in Mexico,” she says. “They love going to Sunday School at the Old Colony Mennonite Church.” Sunday School was not available in Mexico and they appreciate that the church in Ontario has something for children. And the children enjoy school so much, they want to stay in Canada.

After the children were approved to become Permanent Residents, MCS staff also helped the family apply for health cards and Social Insurance Numbers so that the older children could work over the summer months. Heinrich enjoys teaching his children to work on the fields. His own position is yearlong, for which he is very grateful.

When asked what kinds of things helped them along the way, Katharina states,

“I don’t know what we would have done without the help of MCS to get to the bottom of all the papers.”

Others have helped too, like community helper Eva Janzen in Perth County and friends in the church. “It has all been such a big help.”

To help a family like the Bueckerts, we invite you to visit the

Get Involved page on our website.


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Thrift Store Business Manager Opening

We are hiring!

Check out this opportunity for a Thrift Store Business Manager:

  • Are you a proven leader who can humbly lead a team of staff and volunteers?
  • Do you have a strong business background, with a passion for social enterprise?
  • Do you have an interest in sustainability, thrift, and retail?
  • Do you have a heart for serving and strengthening local community?

If so, this incredible opportunity could be the right fit for you!

Please visit the Employment Opportunities page on our website for a detailed job description and instructions on how to apply.

#EmploymentOpportunity #AylmerThriftStore #BusinessManager #AylmerON #JobSeekers

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