St. John’s Mission Garden

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On a recent Monday morning, six volunteers from St. John’s Methodist Church showed up at the Mission Garden at 7 a.m. and picked over 750 pounds of vegetables, including 500 pounds of tomatoes.

That’s a lot of tomatoes.

The fruits of their labor in this, the garden’s 5th year, are due to the vision, organization and hard work of many people. In 2011, St. John’s resolved to use their considerable land resources to help the community, and they pledged to do it in a very visible and tangible way: by growing food to supply area food pantries and soup kitchens.

Since that time, the Mission Garden has blessed thousands of people with a total of 30 tons of vegetables over its first four years. This has required a lot of planting, weeding, and watering, as well as a logistical jigsaw puzzle of schedules for picking vegetables to coincide with the schedules and needs of multiple pantries. This has truly become a community effort, as St. John’s has reached out to other churches for help, including New Song and Mt. Joy in Edwardsville. In addition, the Boy Scouts, fraternities/sororities and others have welcomed an opportunity to help in this meaningful and effective ministry to fight hunger.  Vegetable selection has been modified through some trial-and-error, and the garden has persevered through rainy and dry seasons, enduring cutworms and “blossom end rot,” as a witness to the optimism, resilience and compassion of the human heart in our troubled world.

But back to that 500 pounds of tomatoes…

That took just under two hours, with six volunteers. The garden is now producing that amount Every. Two. Days.

Volunteers currently harvest 1500 pounds of vegetables per week, and the garden is on track to EXCEED its record harvest of 2014. This is a strain on the few people who work regularly, and yet we know that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. St. John’s continues to reach out to other churches and community groups. There are MANY TASKS required in this effort. We need people who can pick, people who can drive produce to pantries, people who can weed, prune and thin plants(on their own schedule), and people who can help with communications, reaching out to pantries and other groups of workers.

If you have been thinking of helping in the Mission Garden, now is the time. “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Call the church office at 618-656-1853, or email giveseedsofblessing@gmail.com to find out how you can be a part of this great blessing to the hungry in our area.

Good Samaritan House, Granite City

A unique homeless shelter and rehabilitative facility in Granite City has been doing great work for 18 years, and now needs our HELP if it is to keep its doors open.

The Good Samaritan House opened in 1998 with support of the local Ministerial Alliance, who recognized the need for a homeless shelter addressing the needs of single mothers and their children. Many shelters cannot house families together, and others provide only a brief stay, without offering the kind of help that can break the cycle of chronic & recurrent homelessness: job training and placement, budgeting help, and training in parenting and self-care.

Good Samaritan provides a maximum of 90 days of housing, during which the residents must meet with counsellors and social workers & demonstrate evidence that they are working toward goals that will enable them to maintain a stable housing situation when they leave. The shelter has capacity to house ten families at a time, providing kitchen and laundry facilities and shared bathrooms. Along with staff and volunteers at the shelter, the mothers work together to plan their meals, learning budgeting and nutrition, and establishing consistent schedules and stable routines for their children. Partnering with WorkForce of Granite City, Good Samaritan also provides job training and temp placement for residents, offering them a first step on the road to steady employment and financial independence.

Janice Donaldson, Executive Director at Good Samaritan, has witnessed many success stories, as mothers gain the skills and confidence that enable them to move toward a brighter future for their families.  “Everybody needs a cheerleader,” says Ms. Donaldson, and Good Samaritan is providing a conduit for our community to support a coordinated effort that is yielding great results!

WHY aren’t there more shelters in our area offering such a comprehensive approach to this complex problem? The simple answer is: MONEY, (or rather, the lack therof). Many government and private initiatives to address homelessness suffer from inadequate funding, and are therefore only able to provide a “band-aid” approach to homelessness, offering brief temporary shelter or one-time assistance with a rent or utilities bill. Such “solutions” are well-intended but may paradoxically serve to perpetuate poverty and housing insecurity. Good Samaritan has pursued a goal of lifting families out or the cycle of poverty and homelessness, which requires commitment, coordination, and yes, MONEY.

But now this wonderful, visionary ministry needs OUR help! Good Samaritan began with private funding from area churches. Over the years several churches and civic organizations have provided labor and in-kind donations, as well as funding, to maintain the shelter’s physical facility and programming.  To maintain a stable income for its operating budget, the shelter has also obtained grant money from HUD, IL Dept. of Human Services, and other sources. Now, with the recent IL budget crisis, and the unexpected loss of a large HUD grant(which accounted for 40% of the shelter’s operating expenses), the continued existence of the Good Samaritan house is at risk. The shelter recently launched a “Save the Samaritan” fund drive, with a goal of raising $100,000 by the end of August, in order to keep its doors open while investigating ways to cut expenses and establish new sources of revenue.

 

HOW CAN YOU HELP?

  • Visit goodsamaritanhouse.org to learn more about the great work being done, and the help that is still needed.
  • Pray for homeless families, and seek God’s guidance in how He wants you to get involved.
  • Talk to others at your church or community organization about whether you can commit to funding the ongoing operations of Good Samaritan House.
  • Join us for a fundraiser at Restore Décor on July 30, when our net proceeds will be donated to Good Samaritan House. TOGETHER WE CAN KEEP THIS GREAT WORK GOING, helping families to become part of a thriving, loving community.

Matthew 25:40 Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Fairmont City Christian Activity Center

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In a converted restaurant in Fairmont City, a group of volunteers are working miracles, slowly, patiently, day after day.
The neighborhood surrounding the Fairmont City Christian Activity Center is 95% Hispanic, and lost its neighborhood school with the closing of the Holy Rosary School in 2009. Holy Rosary had offered a culturally-friendly educational atmosphere, as well as a social hub for after-school activities in this largely Roman Catholic community. But even prior to its closure, Holy Rosary had provided education only through eighth grade, after which Fairmont City students were bused into the Collinsville & Caseyville schools. The high school dropout rate for the Fairmont kids approached 50%, as they faced high school with below-average English proficiency, and with parents who were ill-equipped to help with homework. In addition, since their schools have no “late bus,” they are unable to participate in after-school tutoring or other activities, thereby missing more opportunities to socialize and assimilate with their classmates. Since 2009, without a neighborhood elementary school, as Fairmont kids have had to START their primary school years in an English-only educational environment, many began to flounder and fail much earlier.
Then in 2010, a group consisting of mostly retired teachers—some of them familiar with the Fairmont City situation from their experience in Collinsville & Caseyville—started the Fairmont City Christian Activity Center(FCCAC). The center is open from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Eight staff members work with 20-25 children ages 5-18, stressing academics in core subjects, with a goal that every child will graduate high school. Reading and language skills in the early grades are a particular emphasis. Volunteers also intercede with the school system, assisting parents in navigating the complex web of testing services and parent-teacher conferences. Over the past 6 years, as finances and staff expertise has allowed, the center has at times also provided snacks and recreational activities.
The results? Pat Marsh, director of the FCCAC, says that since the center opened, every high schooler enrolled there has graduated high school, and three are currently in college.

How can you help? Volunteers are always needed to help with tutoring, as well as with organizing community events such as movie nights and game nights. Church groups or individuals may volunteer for the summer free-lunch distribution in the park, or to assist with programming. This summer the FCCAC is providing Art Camp, and in years past—based on the availability and expertise of volunteers—they have also provided a cooking school, and a soccer camp. Pat Marsh shared her “wish list” for the Center:
1. Front fencing and picnic tables for an outdoor play area
2. More folding tables
3. A good copier/ printer
4. A level area with a basketball goal
5. Bookcases
6. Landscaping in front of the building
7. Waterproofing in the basement
8. …and more HELP! Volunteers could organize storage areas, assist with tutoring, and plan extracurricular/community events for families and enrichment/recreational activities for students!

If you are interested in volunteering, an education background is helpful, but not necessary. Classroom aides are also helpful to give one-on-one guidance in activities that are led by a professional teacher. Children can also benefit from interacting with volunteers who may bring a wide range of skills and learning/teaching styles to the Center.

On June 25th Restore Décor will hold a fundraiser for the FCCAC, in hopes that this important ministry will continue and thrive, helping at-risk youth to succeed. We hope you will turn out(at 223 N. Main Street, or 111 N. Second Street in Edwardsville) from 8a.m. to 3p.m. to shop for this great cause, to find out more about FCCAC, and to consider whether you have the passion and the ability to help the children of Fairmont City grow into all that God has planned for them.

For more information on the Fairmont City Christian Activity Center, check out their website at http://fairmontcitycac.org/ or contact Pat Marsh at (618)971-6371.

Easter Sunrise Service

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3RD ANNUAL GLEN/ED COMMUNITY EASTER SERVICE

IN PARTNERSHIP WITH FAITH COALITION EDWARDSVILLE AND THE GLEN/ED MINISTERIAL ALLIANCE

                                                                  IMG_1092--cropped pic (2)

Please join us in a community celebration at our third annual ecumenical Easter sunrise service Sunday March 27th from 6:00 – 7:00 a.m. at the Edwardsville Library City Park bandstand.  Services will be led by Rev. Steven Jackson of Mt. Joy Baptist church with participation and support by several other area church families. In the event of inclement weather, services will be held indoors at Mt. Joy.
Come be a part of a community united not divided as we celebrate in unity !

Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. It is an obvious common denominator within the Christian faith and journey, yet it is only a part of the bigger picture and the ongoing story of creation.  Our coming together as a unified body is critically important: just as the Father, Son, and Spirit are one, so too are we to be in relationship with one another forming a stronger and healthier community for all, with God at the core.  This means more than acknowledging and accepting each other and our differences.  It means living out our lives in community with one another and with the glory of our individual brokenness while loving each other anyway as the unique creations we are.  The Apostle Paul describes so well the relationship and design of community: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in the one spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one spirit.”  It is through this relationship, investment, and commitment to and with our God, one another, and ourselves that we become a whole community.  In the wholeness of a right relationship, we support one another and respect our differences while maintaining a common focus on what’s most important – understanding the love and truth of a God who journeys with us all, each and every step of the way, as we learn to reconcile ourselves and our past in preparation for what is to come.  We shouldn’t need a crisis to unify us. We shouldn’t wait for our Edwardsville and Glen Carbon area to experience the next Oklahoma City bombing, Joplin tornado, riot, or school shooting. We can be unified today in a right relationship with one another and a God who is greater than any challenge of this fallen world.  Let us make the commitment to seek out how living in true community with one another can make all the difference in what has yet to be written in our lives and those of our children’s children.   Together we can be a model of a community united, not divided, under a God who walks with us for all to see, in “authentic community.”  We can find great joy, renewed hope and a confidence in ourselves as individuals and collectively, and in our roles in forming a stronger community in the ongoing creation story, when we focus less on our differences and more on what we have in common: our need for love, security and the truths of what this world cannot provide.  

Joe Russo honored with Micah Award

With what shall I come before the Lord

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,

with calves a year old?  

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.     

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.  —Micah 6:6-8

 

Joe Russo, the founder of Faith Coalition, was recently honored with the Micah Award, an annual designation by the United Congregations of the Metro East, for a local citizen who embodies the commandment of Micah Chapter 6.

UCM is an interfaith organization of 35 congregations in the Metro East, which seeks to address issues of social justice. The annual Micah Award recognizes an individual who works tirelessly for social justice, shows respect and compassion for the needs of others, and sets an example of humility in living out his faith.

Since Joe first envisioned the Faith Coalition in 2011, he has worked steadfastly at our main project, rehabilitating a house at 922 Grand Ave in Edwardsville, which will be sold to benefit our local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Under his direction, many congregations and civic groups have volunteered their time and have been impressed with the progress that has been achieved through our combined efforts. As we near the end of those efforts, we know that the house itself is a great accomplishment, but Joe’s example of perseverance and single-mindedness has inspired many, many others to seek out ways that they can address issues of poverty and social justice in our community.

Joe’s vision for Faith Coalition “uniting area churches” has been a guiding light to everyone involved in this organization. Beginning with his idea of organizing local congregations to prepare for natural disasters, we have added to our number as more churches seek to combine and complement each other’s mission efforts. Our website is an outgrowth of that desire to unite the body of Christ, pooling our resources and our passions, and submitting our differences to our common calling.

Through all of this, Joe’s faith has been the driving force for his actions, and his actions have been an example that challenges and inspires all of us to strive to give our best to God. Just as an old piece of furniture can be reclaimed at Restore Decor to create a treasure, God’s transformative power can lead ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Joe’s willingness to follow that leading has blessed all of us in the Faith Coalition. During this season especially, we give thanks for his leadership, and we are delighted to see him recognized with the Micah Award.

(Submitted by the board of Faith  Coalition)

Dana Adams

Michelle Babb

Carole  Clevenger

Glynda Lavelle

Russ Reed

 

Community Hope Center

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How can we make a difference for the homeless and needy in our community? The Community Hope Center(CHC) in Cottage Hills has been exploring and demonstrating possibilities for several years now, and their efforts and successes continue to grow with the help of community volunteers.
• The Community Hope Center has been open for nearly 27 years, providing a food pantry and clothing closet to the needy in the area.
• Soup for the Soul, which operates in CHC’s Hospitality Building, serves up lunch & fellowship three days a week, with menus donated & prepared by local volunteers.
• Now in its third year, the Garden of Hope, located on the grounds of CHC, is blessing the pantry and the Soup program with fresh nutritious vegetables.
• Adopt a Night of Hope is an exciting program that hosts homeless people through a partnership with Room at the Inn(www.roomstl.org), to transport them, feed them & house them overnight at CHC, then return them to Room at the Inn in Bridgeton the following morning.

Here’s how it breaks down by numbers:
• Denise Ukena, assistant director at CHC, estimates that the pantry, lunch program and clothing ministry served approximately 7000 individuals in 2014. Individuals may visit the pantry every two weeks, and the lunch program daily.
• On a recent(average) summer day, the pantry & clothing ministry served 56 households, with an average of three persons per household.
• Approximately 50 volunteers DAILY make this all possible, sorting clothing, preparing meals, receiving food donations, and cleaning the facility. (CHC has only three paid staff members)
How can you help this great work? ALL KINDS of skills and donations are needed. Individuals or groups can volunteer on an occasional basis, or make a commitment to serve more regularly.
Currently the Adopt a Night of Hope program is only operating 3-4 nights per month, but could do more if local groups could provide staffing. Room at the Inn provides training & support for volunteers, and its clients are very appreciative of the clean & pleasant facilities at CHC. Frank Sparks, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in East Alton, says his church enjoys their participation in the Adopt a Night of Hope program(now entering their fourth year), and that they have a regular group of 9-10 people who are “very committed” to the program. They host a Night of Hope once a month at CHC, transporting & hosting about 10-12 people for the night, and they have found it to be a blessing to the volunteers as well as the clients.
Do you have a heart for missions? Contact CHC to find out how you can serve or donate.
618-259-0959 or email hope@hopecenters.com
Make a commitment of your time, money and/or prayers to make life better for someone else.

Annual Report 2014 and Activities

A Message from the President of Faith Coalition

To the many that have followed and supported Faith Coalition-Edwardsville with prayers, time, talent and treasure throughout 2014, I begin my message with Thank You. It is with a full and grateful heart that I reflect on the accomplishments we have made together in unity fulfilling our goal with disaster relief and local missions. Our most significant project is a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to remodel a home that was donated by Richard Rothermich located at 922 Grand Avenue in Edwardsville. When completed, the proceeds from the sale of this pilot project are expected to fund close to three new homes for Habitat for Humanity partner families. This is truly a house that together in unity love has built.

Our newest mission, Restore Decor, was started to provide a means of raising funds to complete the Grand Avenue house remodel and to support the mission work of Faith Coalition-Edwardsville. It has blossomed in 2014 in ways none of us could have dreamed possible. Our Vice President, Dana Adams, answered her calling along with so many other hands and feet in our community by coming together in unity to supply a store space, donated furniture and household items, repair supplies, paint, and countless volunteer hours rescuing, redesigning and selling one of a kind pieces. A heartfelt thank you goes out to all of the wonderful Restore Decor customers who shop with a purpose and keep our energy and enthusiasm high with their words of encouragement and pictures of purchases in their new homes. Restore Decor’s accomplishments this year is a great story to be detailed later in this report.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the many volunteers, from young students to retirees, who represent a broad cross section of this community united as one being Christ’s hands and feet in our local community and beyond as the Faith Coalition-Edwardsville in 2014. Thank you to all from those who have worked at the Grand Avenue house, Restore Decor, and building the playhouse, to the Blankets For Friends girls who have given warmth and comfort to sick children, the homeless, those starting a new life and those touched by a tragedy. I am confident and grateful our community will be in more loving hands as they grow and continue to share their time, treasure, and hearts in our local community and beyond.

Attached is a copy of the Faith Coalition 2014 Annual Report.

Thank you and Blessings in 2015,

Joe Russo

The Faith Coalition-Edwardsville is a Christian organization united in love and truth. Our mission is to be Christ’s hands and feet in our local community and beyond.

Free Lunch Friday

Who says there’s no free lunch? Immanuel United Methodist Church in Edwardsville would disagree. They prepare & serve lunch every Friday for whomever walks in the door. The program was started in 2004 by Floyd Fisher, who suggested offering a free meal once a week, as a service to the hungry, AND a forum for fellowship. Immanuel’s motto is “The Old Church with the New Attitude,” and the congregation was enthusiastic about stepping out in faith to engage the community in this way. Of course, recalls pastor Jackie Havis-Shear, “The big fat question was, Would we be able to afford it?”

They decided to give the program a six-month trial…and over ten years later, it’s still going strong, and has never been in the red.

Volunteers prepare and serve food from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Friday. At first, all the volunteers were members of Immanuel, but over the years many individuals and groups from other churches and civic organizations have pitched in, both serving and providing food donations.

St. Boniface Roman Catholic Church began providing workers for the program in June of 2014. They now serve on the 2nd and 5th Fridays of every month, taking charge of planning, purchasing and preparing the meals for their assigned weeks. Robin Black-Rubenstein, Pastoral Associate at St. Boniface Catholic Church, says it’s been easy to recruit volunteers from within her parish. “They’re very excited to be a part of this, very excited to do more things within the Edwardsville community.”

Sharon Koenig is the Immanuel member who now organizes Free Lunch Friday and schedules volunteers. They usually serve 50-100 people per week, and she notices several “regulars,” some of whom give free-will donations for their meals, including church members, groups coming for meetings, and some people who work downtown. “Why do people come here? We don’t always know.”

Black-Rubenstein notes, “It’s for ANYBODY. Whether they’re wanting companionship, or…whether it’s based on monetary need, whether they’re college students trying to stretch a budget…everybody’s welcome. People come from all over for all different reasons. No questions asked.”

Diane Johnson, a volunteer from St. Boniface, notes, “People that come in are very appreciative. People that come in alone, we try to have somebody sit with them. It’s good to see the older people that maybe don’t get out that often, get out & talk with others. We don’t know who’s in need financially. You see a lot of the same faces month after month.”

Free Lunch Friday is supported by donations from the GlenEd Pantry, HandiMart, A Little Taste of Heaven Bakery, the St. John’s United Methodist’s Mission Garden and other local gardeners.

To volunteer or for more information, contact the church office at 618-656-4648 or edw8iumc@sbcglobal.net.

Do you see a need in our community, and have an idea for how to address it? Leave a comment below, and together let’s look for constructive, effective approaches to help those in need.

What is Faith Coalition?

“Faith Coalition is a Christian organization united in love and truth. Our mission is to be Christ’s hands and feet in our local community and beyond. Our goal is for our area (Edwardsville / Glen Carbon, IL) churches, united through Christ, to be one body with many members in selected common missions.”

Let’s break that down:

We are “a Christian organization”—Our members come from several area churches, and our work is motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, and his commandment to serve “the least of these”(Matthew 25:40). We ALSO WELCOME participation from persons of other religions, and of no particular religion, who embrace our mission of service to others.

We are “united in love and truth”—Our goal is to unite local churches in our common purpose, seeking fellowship and understanding with each other. Jesus prayed that we may “be one” as He and the Father are One(John17:22). We strive to focus on our common faith and purpose, rather than our differences.

Our mission is to “be Christ’s hands and feet”—(from the poem attributed to Saint Teresa of Avila) We seek to manifest the love of God through service to His people. We are open to local needs that can be met through the combined efforts of area churches.

So what does Faith Coalition do?

We have done several projects, including:

  • Rehabbing the house at 922 Grand Ave, Edwardsville for resale with proceeds to benefit our local Habitat for Humanity chapter
  • Travelling to Moore, Oklahoma in 2013, and to Brookport, IL in 2014, to help repair tornado damage
  • Publicizing projects of our member churches and encouraging participation from outside their own congregations

What does Faith Coalition plan to do?

This is where YOU come in! Faith Coalition’s direction is determined by the participation of its members. We are actively seeking input from local congregations, which will suggest areas in which Faith Coalition can serve our community.

On this website, we plan to compile a list of existing service opportunities in the Edwardsville / Glen Carbon area. This list can be a resource for individuals and groups who are seeking ways to serve. It can help churches publicize their activities and recruit new members. It can also be a way for members of different churches to meet others who share their calling to particular areas of ministry; this could be the springboard for developing NEW programs and services.

How can you get involved?

  • Check the “Volunteer” page of this site to see opportunities for you to help others.
  • Check the “About” page to see if your church is already participating in Faith Coalition. If not, talk to your pastor or Mission Team leader about getting involved, OR just watch this site for our meeting times & places(usually the first Thursday of every month) and show up!
  • Let us know—on the “Contact” page—about service opportunities in your congregation or civic group; we’ll post them on our calendar!
  • Share your thoughts—on “Comments” to this blog, or on the “Contact” page—on how we can work together to benefit local needs. Let’s keep this conversation going!