Many children brought in jars for the food pantry during peanut butter and jelly week at First Church of Christ in Sandwich.
When the national setting of the United Church of Christ challenged our churches to join as "ONE UNITED CHURCH on a shared mission for 11 powerful days to feed the hungry and confront food-related injustice," the First Church of Christ, UCC, in Sandwich was one of many local churches that took interest. And when the members discovered that their own community was deeply affected by the injustice -- that their local food pantry's shelves were bare -- they took action.
Courtney Craig, Chair of the Christian Outreach Committee, sat down with her small group of four dedicated people and they brainstormed about how the church could help. The group decided that they would try to collect at least 111 food items for two area food pantries each week, with a total goal of least 1,111 food items collected in 10 weeks. One of the members was a volunteer at the food pantry, so the team was able to easily identify which non-perishable goods were most needed. They believed that this mission could be a rewarding experience because it was the kind of program where both adults and children could participate, and the whole church could be involved.
The group came up with a list of food staples but decided to focus on one item per week instead of just handing out a list of items. "In financially hard times, it's difficult to ask people to make significant contributions," said Craig. "But when you ask them to bring in a box of spaghetti, it sounds doable; it doesn't seem like such a big deal." But these small things can make a big difference."
The team put up posters and decorations, announced the undertaking in the bulletin, placed food collection baskets on each side of the church, and created a 'thermometer marker' to track their progress. One week juice was collected, another week it was cereal, then canned soup, tuna, peanut butter and jelly, canned vegetables, jello, etc. Each week a volunteer tallied the collected goods and delivered them to the local food pantries. And at the end of the 10 weeks?
"We did reach our goal. In fact, we exceeded it -- with over 1400 items being collected!" said The Rev. Anne Cubbage, Senior Pastor. "First Church UCC in Sandwich has met every challenge with extravagant generosity, so we were excited and pleased."
The campaign has been so successful that church school educators have decided to continue the campaign throughout the school year. One teen suggested the church should be thinking bigger -- and as a result, they added a goal of 50 turkeys to be given to the food pantry this year.
"This program has become such an eye-opener for us," said Craig. "We didn't realize how many in our community were in need, so now it has become a major issue of concern for the church. The UCC Mission:1 program initially helped make us aware, and we have taken it from there. It is now a church-wide effort -- from our church school to our adults -- that is helping to make a difference in our community."
Courtney Craig and Rev. Anne can be reached at the church office at 508-888-0434 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.