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Bringing Hope to London’s North East at 1750 Huron Road
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By Nigel Garnaitis


A conversation with David Cottrill, Director of Community Outreach for North Park Church


As you drive East on Huron Road, you pass by a church building with a large greenspace, some gardens, and an “OPEN” sign in the door. For 50 years, this building was the home of a Church of Christ congregation that intentionally opened their space to the community around them, allowing members of the neighbourhood to use their lawn as a place for extensive gardens. Although the building is no longer home to this congregation, their involvement in the community has been passed on to North Park Church’s Life Resource Centre (LRC), a community development ministry led by David Cottrill. I had the privilege of speaking with him about what their ministry looks like as they settle into their new location at 1750 Huron Road. As I spoke with him, it became immediately evident that the renovated space is already bustling with activity. He said that it may be the only church building in London that is open and used every day of the week except for Sundays!

The LRC team has had years of experience working as an extension of North Park Church in London’s Northeast. Initially, North Park operated as a charity for this part of London, working with schools and community organizations to respond to the needs of the community around Huron, Adelaide, and Highbury. Cottrill explains how this quickly became a problem. “It was a one-way process,” he remarked. “If there was a need, we would fill it. [We] had a real desire that, instead of serving the community, we could become friends with the community. It could be a two-way relationship.”

When I asked Cottrill about how they are engaging with poverty in London’s Northeast, he emphasized that their key focus is not providing anti-poverty programs or meeting a list of objectives. Instead, they want to provide people with hope. Cottrill explained that hope is often one of the missing pieces in charitable work, as many charitable programs simply tell people they don’t have the ability to respond to their own needs. He has learned that providing this sort of hope means starting with the relational poverty people are facing, as it is the foundation to many other forms of poverty. In his experience, “People in situations without caring and loving relationships will not be able to make choices that will serve them for the long haul. There are a lot of short term trade-offs.” Rather than be a service that tells people to sit back and wait for their situation to change, the LRC wants to “provide people with a sense that they have worth, they have value, the ability to use what they have to produce, or in some way provide for their own needs.”

1750 Huron is already budding with activity. On top of their core programs, including their World Tailors group and the extensive community garden, they have already hosted community partners’ events, facilitate an Alpha program, and are planning on starting an afterschool program for kids in the neighbourhood in the next couple of weeks. There are also plans to renovate part of the building to be a youth space. Although there is much to be done, Cottrill is confident that as relationships develop, they will have a clarified sense of how they can love the people in this community.

As Cottrill shared stories of how he has seen Jesus transform people’s lives through the work of the LRC, it became apparent how important dedicated relationships are to his ministry. In the midst of communities fraught with abuse, fatalism, and competition, simply seeing people who have the desire to be loved reminds him that God is revealing to people that there is something more than the hopelessness they are facing. Oftentimes, he sees Jesus’ work in the details of the relationships he finds himself in. Cottrill mentions that even small acts of kindness and grace in these communities have the power to bring a ripple effect of change, no matter how small the ripples are.

If you are curious about how you can make an impact in your neighbourhood, Cottrill offers some very simple advice: “Don’t go and try to serve your neighbourhood. Go make friends.” He warns that unless you know your neighbour, you will not be able to love them as yourself. The first step he suggests is to start praying for your neighbours, and ask God for opportunities to know them. “In knowing them, be willing to serve and be a friend. Don’t ever look at your neighbourhood as a project. Its just people who God wants you to love and care for.”