It’s time for a change, and that includes stepping away.
That’s according to Kelowna’s Gospel Mission executive director Randy Benson, who announced he will be retiring in the summer.
“I’ve been thinking of it for a long time. The good news is I’m getting married in the spring and there’s just a lot of new things that are happening in my life. The time for retirement was here,” Benson said.
“I’ve had a good ride, and it’s just time for a change.”
Looking back on nearly two decades of working with the Mission, Benson said one of the highs has been seeing the change in peoples’ lives they have seen come through their doors.
“There’s been a lot of people who have found hope and new life and we’ve been able to turn their lives around through the services that we provided. As I’ve said many times, we serve many and we rescue some. I think that’s been our story.”
He said because of the increasing homelessness in the community, many good stories get buried under new problems that come up.
“People sometimes don’t recognize that good things are also happening. We’ve been able to help people get into addictions recovery, get into housing, get into jobs, get back together with their families… there’s just been a whole lot of great things. That’s definitely one of my high points.”
He added that seeing the Mission establish a low-cost dental clinic and expand its women’s supportive housing are also high points in his career.
But the highs come with lows. Benson said a low is the fact that despite the hard work of the Mission and other agencies, homelessness continues to grow in complexity.
“It’s going to take a lot of work together as a community and as agencies to address the issue that we’re facing now. I think the reality that this problem may not go away (is a low). It’s a sign of the times all across Canada and the United States. We’re not the only ones facing these kinds of issues,” he said.
“I feel like we’re all doing everything we can but the problem continues to grow. We’re being creative, we’re getting some housing together, we’re working as hard as we can. And yet people continue to struggle.
“We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds on that.”
Benson said one of the things he’ll always keep in mind is the fact that the community rallied behind the Mission and the work it does.
“A few years ago, we changed our name from the Kelowna Gospel Mission to Kelowna’s Gospel Mission. And I really feel that’s true because our community has felt ownership of what we do and has been involved in supporting us, so that’s something I’m very thankful for and something that’s been rewarding for me.”