SPOTLIGHT: Local Churches Helping to Change Their Communities

8/17/2011

Helping the Hungry

 
Members of South Congregational Church UCC in Pittsfield offered their building, dining hall, and members to help serve dinner to the needy. Now, five teams of volunteers - inside and outside the church - cook and serve dinner for 75-100 people each Wednesday. Seeing a need to do more, members initiated a food pantry - with food provided by parishioners and outside donations, as well as area food banks.

Market Ministries - an organization that serves the homeless and hungry of Greater New Bedford - uses the kitchen of Pilgrim United Church of Christ to prepare weekly lunches. Pilgrim took it upon itself to serve breakfast on the first Saturday of October, and got other faith communities and neighbors involved - to raise funds to buy food items, assist with the preparation of the meal, and help serve. Because of the meal ministry's great success, a clothing redistribution program was set up, which has grown to distribute books along with the clothing.

 

Members of the Congregational Church of Littleton planted seeds with an eye to donating the fresh, organic vegetables and herbs to Loaves & Fishes and the Neighborhood Supper food programs. Volunteers from the church and community, including girl scouts and rotary members, were recruited. During the first year, the garden produced 2,100 lbs. of vegetables and herbs that were donated. The second year brought a similar crop.

On the second Thursday of each month, several members of the Tewksbury Congregational Church get together in the church kitchen and bake up six giant batches of brownies, enough to feed 150 people at the Lowell Transitional Living Center (LTLC) - a community supported, non-profit organization that provides a safe, temporary shelter for homeless men and women in the Greater Lowell area. Another group in the church delivers the brownies the next night and serves dinner there as well. Most times clients are served in a food line, but on brownie nights when Tewksbury volunteers are there, the clients are encouraged to take a seat and are served restaurant-style, with volunteers waiting on them and treating them with love, caring and respect.
  

Community Service

 
The members of The Haydenville Congregational Church UCC go into outreach action on Blue Moon Sundays - those fifth Sundays of the month which occur only a few times a year. On those particular Sundays, the members forego their usual coffee hour, and instead, march out to the community to get refreshed in a different way. Members who participate choose from four to five different activities that will help someone in need. Some members may choose to visit shut-ins, do yard work for the elderly, sing hymns at a nursing home, or fulfill any other need they see within their church or community.

First Church of Pittsfield members emphasized four different mission themes to associate with the seasons. In the fall, they thought of hunger, and participated in the Church World Service CROP Walk. In winter, the members focused on acts of peace by dedicating a peace pole in the front of the church and holding community forums with the local peace and justice group. For their spring/justice emphasis, First Church was active in letter writing campaigns, encouraging Massachusetts legislators to support additional foreign aid for development in Africa as well as to keep tax credits for low income American families. The Summer theme was caring for the earth and members helped in a clean-up the Housatonic River.

United Church of Christ Federated took a leadership role in the revitalization of downtown Webster. Each church member was asked to commit at least two hours or to donate the monetary equivalent of two hours of their time, to support this all-church outreach endeavor, called COMMUNITY Day. Members volunteered to teach knitting, crocheting, quilting, needle craft, how to save money with coupons, gardening, and how to care for house plants. Some members baked and prepared food while others served it up with smiles and words of genuine welcome. The goal was to promote a sense of unity among those who live, work and worship in the downtown area of Webster so that neighbors might live together peaceably, work to ensure each other's success, and share in the goodwill that builds trust, cooperation, and genuine commUNITY.
 
See more stories at www.macucc.org/spotlight.  


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