John Beach had a dream to open a store front mission. He was the part time priest for Church of the Ascension on Park Avenue and wanted to create a non-traditional center that would welcome people from off the street. He realized that dream when he opened Mile End Mission in May of 1991. There had already been rumblings and wonderful good works cooking up in the basement of that church with the unfailing devotion of the three original volunteers; Connie, Andre and Hannah. They were making soup for about 20 people a day with the food they got from the Montreal Harvest. They also made a huge Christmas dinner at the church for about 120 people.
In May of 1991, John Beach, Connie, Andrée, and Hannah moved over to the first Mile End Mission at 87 Bernard. The place had been a pretty rough hang out before we got there. There was a long counter with bar stools in front of it, palm trees painted in the window as well as a small stage area. Andre and Harold helped out with carpentry and plumbing and simple renovations and together with rest of the volunteers cleaned up the place and got it in good working order. They carried on with the soup kitchen, feeding 20 people a day. Sometimes the delivery of the soup was precarious as John Beach would bring it to the center on his bicycle. He did not like to use automobiles and tried to do everything he could on his bike. One day as he was carrying over the soup on the back of his bicycle and he got hit by a car and lost the soup. Usually it was delivered safely!
There was soup served Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
On Thursdays at 11 a.m. there was communion and usually ten or twelve people would be there. At first, some of the older parishioners from the church would attend this service.
We shared the Mission with a coffee house that was open once a week on Tuesdays, where people could enjoy listening to poetry or music. There was also an anti-poverty group, an AA meeting that met on Thursday nights and once a year there would be a day outing to the beach.
Right from the beginning, we hosted a Christmas dinner from the YMCA at the corner of Park and St. Viateur. Connie, Andre, and Hannah would cook all the vegetables and made the mashed potatoes at the Mission and lug them over to the Y. The turkeys were cooked by volunteers in the community who would deliver them hot and ready to serve. At the beginning there were about 120 people attending those dinners.
In 1995 Rosyln Macgregor came to us as our new part time priest. We were starting to overflow with all our activities and needed more elbow room than our 750 square feet space could offer. The delicious banana bread bakery beside us came free fortunately, and we were able to expand into its space through the walls (although we did miss the delicious banana bread we’d have for lunch).
Connie started putting out clothes that people who came to the soup kitchen could take for free. Our first baptism took place here. There was a reading circle for kids on Sundays from 2 to 4, that was run by parents from the community so kids could read stories and do arts and crafts and parents could either stay or take a little breather while the kids were busy. Connie, Lori, and Carol ran a single parent community supper on a Saturday once a month, where single parents could enjoy great meals with great people who were in the same situation.
Things continued on for several years, and once again, we felt cramped in our space with all the activity and growing numbers of people using the mission. In 1998 we moved a couple of doors down to 99 Bernard, right on the corner of St. Urbain where we are to this day.