March 13th, 2019
We sat down with Jenny Konkin, President and Co-Founder of Whole Way House, to hear her stories of redemption through simply “loving thy neighbour.” As they serve the vulnerable seniors and veterans in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Whole Way House lives and breathes the message that we don’t HAVE to do this, but we GET to.
Jenny and her brother Josh have always shared a passion to save the Downtown Eastside. Continuing the family legacy left by her grandparents and parents, they took over the low income housing their family purchased in the 1970s and started Whole Way House.
One incident, involving a gentleman passing away alone in his room, really struck a chord in each of their hearts. Not one of the 85 residents in the building knew anything about him. This humbling experience made them both realize they wanted to be more than just landlords. Even if they couldn’t fix the entire Downtown Eastside, they could create a community of love, respect, and value.
Today, Whole Way House builds meaningful relationships that instill worth and dignity through their programs which re-connect, re-build and re-centre. From family dinners, games nights, barbershop services, art classes, exercise groups, and “clean teams”, this community is cared for. They’re also given the opportunity to volunteer, regaining their sense of purpose. For Jenny, this is an incredible privilege. In her day to day, she gets to witness people transition out of homelessness, encouraging others in the process, as they begin to have a newfound reason to get up each morning.
Our youth ministry, Mission Adventures (MA), partners with Whole Way House by sending teenage groups to help serve and volunteer each summer. Jenny says, “Having young people around really changes the atmosphere and helps bring a positive energy.” She believes it’s important for young people to be involved in serving their local community, as it sets a foundation of compassion. “Every single person has a story, and the only way we can love people like Christ is to have compassion. It can be very easy to judge someone by their current situation, but compassion helps us love people without an agenda”, says Jenny. When originally asking God, “How do we love these people?”, she felt God say “Don’t just tell them I love them, but show them!”
Another way MA supports the Downtown Eastside community is through the I Get To Legacy Project. Inspired by Ron Konkin, Jenny’s father, who in 2009 was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma at the age of 48 and only given 4-12 months to live, his perspective shift built a legacy that changed lives. He said, “I don’t have to, I get to, because I’m still alive!”. To honour her father, Jenny started making necklaces from a washer attached to a chain, with the words “I Get To” stamped on them. She realized, if she could make these, then so could the gentlemen in the Downtown Eastside. Each chain is hand stamped and provides part time work for a resident who is transitioning out of homelessness. The proceeds from each Legacy Chain go to help fund the Community Building Programs at Whole Way House.
If you’d like to get involved in serving the Downtown Eastside community, you can see volunteer opportunities on the Whole Way House website here, or send your youth team to us and we’ll organize it for you!
Remember, we don’t have to do this, we get to. What an honour and privilege. Amen!
JOIN US IN PRAYER FOR WHOLE WAY HOUSE:
For the hearts of the people in the Downtown Eastside to heal, getting to the root and providing holistic support for each and every person.
Provision of more christian volunteers to create those organic relationships, promoting a positive light and fulfilling the command to “love your neighbour”.
Opportunities to share Jesus, with hearts softened and open to prayer.
Safety for the volunteers, team and residents as the neighbourhood becomes more dangerous.