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HUMANS OF SARNIA: Murray Stephenson

The Sarnia Journal has partnered with local photographer Art Connolly to feature his captivating “Humans of Sarnia” series as he delves into the lives and experiences of everyday people in Sarnia. Follow his series on Instagram and Facebook

I had the pleasure of meeting Murray Stephenson, co-executive director of Nightlight Sarnia alongside his wife, Gwen Stephenson. Nightlight Sarnia is a non-denominational Christian-based drop-in center located at 181 Christina St N, Sarnia, and has been serving the community for about two years. As part of Nightlight Canada, the center is dedicated to addressing "relational poverty" among marginalized individuals by offering a safe space for meaningful relationships.

Murray elaborated on the concept of relational poverty, noting that it is often considered the most painful form of poverty, a sentiment echoed by Mother Teresa. The center aims to combat this through evening gatherings where up to 60 people can drop in for companionship. He highlighted how isolation transcends social barriers and affects individuals regardless of their background, often exacerbated by factors like extreme poverty, mental health issues, addiction, and homelessness.

At Nightlight, visitors can enjoy free coffee and snacks, engage in games, and partake in conversations that foster friendships. While the center is faith-based, it respects each individual's journey and does not impose religious beliefs. In addition to providing a welcoming environment, the center assists with practical needs such as transporting people to appointments and connecting them with other social services through partnerships.

Murray emphasized the crucial role of the center's approximately 55 volunteers, expressing deep appreciation for their contributions. Both he and Gwen find joy in witnessing the personal growth of their volunteers. Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to reach out to the center for more information.

A retired addictions counselor, Murray has a rich history of working in various locations, including Sault Ste. Marie, and with organizations like Teen Challenge. His dedication to helping others is palpable in his conversations. He understands the importance of maintaining a balance in his life to continue his impactful work and credits the dependable volunteers for enabling him to do so.

In getting to know Murray, it became evident that his passion lies in the center's mission rather than in personal accolades. His genuine selflessness and desire to make a difference shine through in his every word and action.

Nightlight Sarnia operates as a registered charity without government funding, relying solely on donations. Those interested in supporting the center can visit CanadaHelps. Additionally, the center will host a Garden Tour Fundraiser on July 14, 2024, from 12 pm to 4 pm. For ticket information, please contact the center.

“Humans of Sarnia” founder Art Connolly is a man fuelled by curiosity and a passion for connecting with people in Sarnia. Inspired by the renowned “Humans of New York” series, with a camera in hand, he captures the very essence of the individuals he encounters, preserving their stories through his lens.

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