Grocery Store Chat Lead to Treasured Friendships


Niagara on the Lake Local, June 22, 2023

It was an appreciative congregation who met on Sunday night for the second last Caribbean Workers Outreach Project church service of the season. Hosted by Bethany Mennonite Church for decades it has found a new home at the Hunter Rd. campus of Cornerstone Church the past few years.

Rev.Dave Pritchard from the United Church used the occasion to express gratitude to three individuals who have shown extraordinary dedication, serving the practical, social and spiritual needs for many years.

Nancy Howse King has been extensively involved in many levels of organizing for over two decades. It started when she met farm workers coming in to MB Foods (now Phil’s Independent) where she worked as a cashier. Casual conversations at the store lead to friendships. Her family began inviting them over for meals or taking them on excursions to Niagara Falls or other area attractions. Getting involved with the CWOP Sunday night services connected her to a supportive network that organized popular annual events attended by hundreds – the Caribbean dinner, the domino tournament and cricket match.  CWOP members also travelled regularly to Jamaica to visit the families of their friends who worked on the farms, as well as their churches and schools. It’s amazing to see years later how those initial casual conversations in a grocery store have led to so many treasured friendships. Although Nancy is retiring from her official position on the committee the friendships will continue!


Rev. Pritchard also extended his thanks to two very dedicated Jamaican members of CWOP – Brian Burton and Elijah Steele.Mr. Steele is usually known as “Prophet”, perhaps for his uncanny way of prophesying his winning streak over the past 27 years as coach of the Niagara-On-the-Lake Clippers cricket team. Brian Burton has been working at Langendoen Nurseries for a little over a decade and bubbles over with enthusiasm when talking about his involvement with CWOP. His contributions are many – leading in worship at the CWOP church services, organizing the dominoes tournament held at Niagara United Mennonite Church and refereeing at the annual cricket match.


Rev. Pritchard also spoke of new opportunities to partner with organizations that are supportive of its mission, thereby encouraging the committee to make plans and welcome new volunteers for 2024.

Although three members of CWOP received special recognition on Father’s Day there have been many locals who have steadfastly shown up and contributed over the past 3 decades – providing rides, friendship, after service snacks, organizing dinners or fundraising.

Percival Sutherland, who arrived for his first time in Niagara just a few weeks ago, was grateful to receive a warm welcome, sing songs from home and make new friends. He was introduced to Uton Bell who provided some words of encouragement. Mr.Bell one of the first farm workers on the program who was able to bring his family to Canada thanks to his employer, Abe Epp, sponsoring him in 1973.

From the newest face in the crowd to men like Mr. Bell who have attending the church  service for 35 years – it was a fitting reminder of how vital the presence of CWOP is in our community.

Sunday, June 25th will be a concert and the final night of the spring/summer season. It’s a lively, fun night when neighbours on the farms are welcome to share a favourite song. Starting at 7:30, everyone in the community is welcome to come and enjoy a casual evening of friendship and music, Caribbean style!