During our common journey through the Lenten season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, many parishes undertake charitable ministries and projects in Christ-like outreach to others. The Orthodox Church in America’s Department of Christian Service and Humanitarian Aid suggests two well-established programs for parish consideration.
The first is the Gift of the Heart Kit program initiated by Church World Service (CWS) and strongly supported by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC). These humanitarian organizations respond to disasters and all manner of human distress, large and small, working along with other aid partners. In the US last year, they aided those who were victims of fires in Colorado and Arizona, floods in Texas and Kentucky, tornadoes in the Midwest, and Superstorm Sandy on Long Island in 2012. Aid continues worldwide, e.g. in Syria, in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, and most recently in the East Java, Indonesia volcano eruption. In addition to financial support, they count on our faith communities to keep the warehouses filled with thousands of Gift of the Heart Kits—school kits, hygiene kits, baby kits and emergency cleanup buckets. At this time, IOCC says, “The need for emergency hygiene kits continues to grow.” CWS issued a new appeal at the end of February “to help replenish the supply of school kits.” All types of kits are needed and greatly appreciated.
The Resource Handbook for Ministries features an article about methods used by parishes, church schools and organizations for efficiently assembling Gift of the Heart Kits. Read it here and follow the links for content and mailing instructions.
The second humanitarian program recommended for parishes is the Church World Service CROP Walk. One-day sponsorship walks are organized locally every spring and fall in cities and towns throughout the US to “fight hunger one step at a time.” Join an existing walk or organize a new one. Arlene Kallaur’s Resource Handbook article about the CROP Walk experience at Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY, can provide guidance.