Briercrest seminary student finds his calling at Riverside Mission

Posted: July 27, 2011

By Julie Cole

Steve Porter (r) serves coffee to several men at Riverside Mission.(Submitted photo)

Clint Demarce is a man with a mission – literally. He’s the executive director of Moose Jaw’s Riverside Mission.

The leadership role enables the Briercrest College and Seminary student to be involved in an area he is passionate about – helping those who are less fortunate within the community. He is currently enrolled in the seminary’s Management and Leadership program.

Riverside Mission provides a safe place where people can receive basic needs of food, clothing and shelter.

“Due to our staff and the size of the property, we (only) have an emergency shelter for men right now,” Demarce explained. “We have eight beds. Anywhere from two to eight to ten (beds) – if we use the overflow – are open on a given night.”

The Riverside Mission also has seven suites that it rents out for low-income housing. Four of those are designated as transitional housing for men who are going through addictions treatment.

“We don’t offer a treatment program,” Demarce said. “But we offer a transition place which is drug and alcohol free for them to go to after they’ve gone through detox. After a treatment centre, (men) need somewhere to go that can offer stability and support. We offer housing for them so they can continue on their journey to recovery.”

The path that led Demarce to Riverside Mission began in 2006 when his church, New Life Center, decided to find a way to reach out to people “outside its four walls.”

“The previous pastor and the board decided to take a big step of faith,” Demarce said. “They felt like God was calling them to get more involved with the city . . . so they purchased a building downtown in Moose Jaw on River Street.”

The pastor asked Demarce to get the Riverside project going. But things quickly changed.

“Within five months the pastor was promoted to district superintendent (of the church’s denomination),” Demarce explained. “He asked me to take over the church for him as well so I did that . . . still as a student in seminary.”

As Demarce took the next few months to transition into the role of pastor, the Riverside project was put on hold. When the church began the project again, they hit a snag.

“The inspector came and had a look and told us we needed to get a permit and an architectural engineer, an electrical engineer, and a structural engineer,” Demarce explained. “That kind of put a halt on everything because we didn’t have the money or know what we were doing for that matter.”

That same week, a window of opportunity emerged.

“We got a phone call from a realtor/property developer that wanted to buy our property,” Demarce said. “We actually sold our building for four times what we paid for it. We were able to use that money to buy our current property. The old property was just a restaurant. This new property came with office space, a restaurant and then a lot of space for housing.”

The vision for Riverside Mission property has unfolded one step at a time.

“We didn’t have any great plans for what we were going to do with this building,” Demarce admitted. “We just kept trusting God to steer us in the right direction. In 2008 we bought the property and started managing the suites because they were already full.”

The emergency shelter began when Demarce and Dave Harrison, the mission’s operations manager, were standing outside of the property.

“We saw this guy pushing his bike by, so we started talking to him,” Demarce said. “We found out he was homeless . . . so we gave him a place to stay. He lived with us for over a year. He was quite a blessing. He painted the whole kitchen and helped us get ready to open up.”

The soup kitchen opened up in April of 2009 when the mission received its restaurant license.

“The Gathering in Caronport and Cornerstone Christian School did a food drive for us,” the mission director explained. “We decided, ‘We have all this food, we might as well serve it.’ We advertised a free meal and we’ve been doing it ever since.”

The Riverside Mission provides a supper meal every Wednesday for anyone in the community, as well as lunch every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“We have anywhere from 30 to 60 people come,” Demarce reported.

As the vision and outreaches of Riverside Mission continued to expand, Demarce resigned his position as pastor of New Life Center in order to focus his efforts solely on the mission. He has a vision for the role he desires the mission to have in the community.

“I want God to be glorified in Moose Jaw and for the community to see the church unified and active, doing what Jesus called us to do in His kingdom,” he said. “I really want Riverside Mission to be a place that respects and cares for people regardless of where they ended up in life, or how they’ve fallen.”

With only three full- time and two part-time staff members, the mission relies on donations and volunteer help.

“One thing I’m very proud of is our regular volunteers,” Demarce said. “We have probably 30-40 regular volunteers who come down and help prepare meals and serve people. We’re always looking for volunteers. Every Wednesday night we try to get a different group involved. It’s a transforming thing for us when we try to humble ourselves and serve each other whether it’s within the church or outside the church.”