Can you tell me if your church does any fund-raising to help feed the children of less fortunate families? WIC and food stamps just aren’t enough anymore. There are many families who are spiritually wealthy, yet not able to make ends meet, who want a hand up—not a hand out. They keep thinking “If I can just make it through this month things will be OK” and then something happens (like the car breaks down, or they loose their job, or the boss loses their paycheck,etc), and they find themselves wondering where they’re going to get money for groceries.
I know because I’ve been there, and when there are children involved it becomes terrifying.
I had just had my second child when I was below poverty level, and I realized I wasn’t the only one. That’s when I started my mission of help.
Fund-raisers also help spread the Word in these troubled times. It can touch someones’ life and turn them to God, or it could be the helping hand that saves one who is loosing spiritual ground. I feel it is my Christian duty to find opportunities that give that hand up, and find ways to get those opportunities into the hands of those in need. I have found many leads, and I’m still looking for more. Please tell me if you do fund- raising.
I would like to thank you for the touching comments you shared concerning your own situation. May God bless you for your concern and the mission which you have undertaken to help others and to “spread the word” on the needs of those all too often forgotten or marginalized in our society.
On the national level, the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) conducts a charity appeal every November on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. This appeal generates well over $100,000 per year, nearly all of which is used for charitable purposes. Each of the Church’s numerous dioceses throughout the US and Canada also conduct similar appeals. We believe, however, that the greatest impact is made on the local level where the “faces” of those in need are the most visible.
I do not know of a parish within the Orthodox Church in America that does not engage in outreach to the needy, the hungry, etc. In my own parish in the Chicago suburbs [Wheaton, IL], for example, we take a monthly charity collection. In addition nearly 30 parishioners volunteer monthly to work at the Peoples’ Resource Center in Wheaton where food is distributed to hundreds of needy families every Saturday morning. Our parishioners have not only volunteered with the food distribution effort, but also bring non-perishable food items with them every Sunday to church. These are delivered to the Center each Tuesday, when they are sorted and packed for the weekly distribution on Saturdays.
Since it has been our experience that the hungry are not only in need of food but of basic social services and genuine Christian love and compassion, our volunteers also assist at the Center in tutoring children whose families are in no position to engage professional tutorial services. Six of our parishioners are also trained in teaching English to the foreign born, many of whom are also in dire need financially and socially. Hungry people often hunger for human warmth and contact, and we strive to provide this in a number of ways as well. On Thursdays our parishioners teach English at the Center, while on Saturdays the English lessons are held in our own church hall in an effort to alleviate the crowded conditions that the Center often experiences due to the food distribution effort. Also, after our Second Divine Liturgy on Sunday mornings, we offer English lessons to new immigrants who worship with us.
In addition to collecting and distributing food, we have also been involved in the collection of children’s books and shoes, which are in great demand and for which those in need are extremely grateful. Throughout the year we also help out at the neighborhood PADDS shelter and warming shelters.
While this is just the experience in my own parish, virtually every other parish conducts similar efforts, based on the unique needs and circumstances they experience in their particular areas. I know of a parish in Baltimore, Maryland which is one of many that regularly opens its hall to provide meals to the needy. In Cleveland there is a unique monastery—St Herman’s House of Hospitality—which provides housing and daily meals to indigent men, while in the same city St Mary of Egypt House offers similar services to needy women.
Internationally, the well-known International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) has been widely praised for raising tens of millions of dollars to alleviate hunger and other travesties in many places throughout the world, especially in Eastern Europe, the Caribbean, and Central Africa, to name a few.
May God bless you as you continue your good work for His glory and for the love of His People.