Pastor Brett Esslinger of Saints Church says of their new outreach ministry, “If I could say anything about CityServe, I would say that it is a God dream.”
Brett and Desiree Esslinger became senior pastors of Saints Church in October 2019. They brought together two churches and two congregations to create a new multi-site church. West Edmonton Christian Assembly and Engage Church became Saints Church, and from that moment, the Esslingers have been praying for wisdom on how to reach and serve their community.
As church planters, community work came naturally. Ten years ago, they planted Engage Church in a suburb of Edmonton called Spruce Grove. After serving on the board of the local food bank, Pastor Brett realized there was a gap. The community did not have public transportation to and from the food bank, due to their location on donated land in a business park.
Engage Church (now Saints Church - Glory Hills) purchased a used transit bus, refurbished it, and then began offering free bus routes to and from the food bank in both Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, Alberta.
Fast forward to February 2023, Pastor Brett received a call proposing a crazy idea. “I got a call from Pastor Randy Nielsen from Brampton, Ontario, and he wanted to know if we were interested in something called CityServe.”
CityServe originated in the U.S. but has now launched in Canada.
“We jumped at the opportunity to establish a CityServe Hub in Edmonton.” Pastor Brett is very excited about the ministry. The model is simple—in Edmonton, the CityServe YEG team receives new, overstocked, and returned items from major retailers, sorts those goods into categories, and then distributes them to community partners.
The biggest contributor to CityServe is Amazon. The CityServe YEG team receives semi-truck loads from Amazon, with items ranging from common household goods to electronics and even 3D printers.
The CityServe YEG team is led by three dedicated, high-capacity volunteers. Sue Merta handles volunteer co-ordination, Bev Esslinger handles community and corporate outreach and partnerships, and Barb Hooper manages the warehouse. They have a team of over 80 volunteers from Saints Church who receive, sort, organize and deliver the items.
“To date, we have 65 community partners to whom we distribute items… from churches, to shelters, to camps, to schools, and various charities and non-profits, the list just continues to grow.”
Every partner who signs up receives their items by the pallet—six feet tall and 4 feet wide. The value of the items is between $3,000-$10,000, depending on the types of items they require. Since starting operations in a donated warehouse in March 2023, Saints Church and the CityServe YEG team have distributed over $500,000 of items, and is on target to distribute over $1,000,000 in goods to those in need through their partner network this year.
Photos courtesy Saints Church.