SAVES - A Service to Parishioners in Need
By Lory Nescott
St. Alexander Volunteer Effort Service - Helping Parishioners in Need
Church Growth has been the focus of attention in our parish since the Seventh All-American Council. Our Women’s Association saw an opportunity and developed a program that came to be known as SAVES - the St. Alexander Volunteer Effort Service. The purpose of SAVES is to provide help for those in the parish who are in need. Another important reason for establishing it was to encourage fellowship and promote acquaintances among parishioners. As members of a rather wide-spread suburban parish, we realized we didn’t recognize all our members.
An episode that started us thinking about the concept was an account given by two of our newest members about a recent, dismal Thanksgiving. Their stories were identical. “The family had just moved. Relatives were unable to visit and the family couldn’t manage to get away for the holiday. So the family celebrated alone. It was so depressing, sitting around the big table by themselves. If only they could have invited someone to join them . . . . If only they could have visited someone… But they were new. They didn’t know anyone.”
Each of us at that meeting felt guilty, because we could have done something to ease their loneliness. We resolved to prevent another such occurrence. It was not that no one cared; the problem was that no one was aware. In an effort to increase our awareness of one another, and as an integral part of outreach and growth, SAVES was born.
MOVING INTO ACTION
The attached information form was circulated to all parishioners. Copies were placed in the pews and went out with the monthly bulletin. Father explained the program from the pulpit and encouraged everyone to join. The initial response was slow, but after several calls to action, more and more people have signed up to be a part of SAVES.
A member of the Association was selected as coordinator to perform three important tasks. The first was to analyze the completed forms and set up a reference system. The coordinator was also designated as the person to notify as situations arose. She then made the necessary arrangements for SAVES to respond. Here are a few illustrations of what SAVES has done:
1) One of the young mothers of our parish was suddenly admitted to the hospital for major surgery. SAVES went into action. Parishioners were contacted and asked to prepare a meal for the family. People responded so enthusiastically that the family received dinners for three weeks! A drop date was established, and 4-5 people were asked to bring meals to the church on that date. (Meals were sent in either throw-away containers or good dishware, all of which were returned to the church. Some parishioners enclosed get well cards; others sent the meals anonymously. Most dishes were accompanied by heating instructions.) It was arranged that one person delivered the food to the house, so that the recuperating individual would not be burdened by too many visitors at a time.
2) A series of storms hit our area, and some of our parishioners were without heat, electricity and hot water. Parishioners in areas hardest hit were contacted to find out if they required any assistance. Families not affected by the storm opened their homes, offering sleeping accommodations, food, hot showers, telephones, etc., to those who needed it.
3) In several instances of prolonged illness or death, SAVES sent meals to the affected families. Any parishioner living nearby was encouraged to deliver the food. In all cases, that person was cordially welcomed and often asked to stay and visit. It was not the food itself, but the expression of care and concern that meant so much to the individuals.
4) The college outreach program began as an arm of SAVES. It was made into a separate committee and now functions as a program on its own. At the beginning of the school year, parents are urged to submit or update information regarding their college-age child, with emphasis on date of birth and proper mailing address. Approximately four times a year, and often at exam time, “goodie” packages are sent to the students. Items are donated by any parishioner interested in doing so, and past goodies have included homemade chocolate chip cookies, jars of nuts, bags of potato chips, cup-of-soup, etc. The packages also contain the recent issues of the parish monthly bulletins so the college students can keep current on parish news. Birthday cards are sent to students at the appropriate time. At present, the Women’s Association is trying to arrange for a small monetary gift to accompany the cards.
AREAS NEEDING ATTENTION
SAVES has proven to be a door opener for a number of people and has encouraged awareness of others. However, there are presently two areas of the program that need attention.
Because of the way the program is structured, it requires a coordinator (or group of people) willing to assume the responsibility of contacting people and organizing the details of any particular assist effort, as needs arise. This often proves to be time consuming. We are investigating the possibility of rotating the position every few months to see if this is a viable alternative.
Secondly, the coordinator is not always aware or informed of people requiring assistance. Although personal efforts are being made to “be alert,” many potential situations are not recognized. We continue to work closely with our parish priest in identifying situations where SAVES might be of service. We also encourage parishioners to be on the lockout for opportunities to help and to let the coordinator know. It seems that some people are too shy to ask for help or too proud to let others know they might need help.
in all, the positive aspects of the program far outweigh the problems listed above. Of foremost importance is the fact that opportunities to help others are non-threatening. Both the givers and receivers benefit from the interaction. There is no age limit set on people willing to participate. Many of our young people have signed up to offer assistance. Participation can be either recognized or anonymous. People willing to participate do not have to be locked into a particular type of assistance. It is a simple matter to update the information forms. One of the greatest benefits of SAVES has been the response and growth of the college outreach program. Some of the students have even taken the time to send thank you notes which are posted on the church bulletin board.
As the examples illustrate, we have responded to a variety of situations. It is still a fledgling project. We have only scratched the surface of the work we may be able to accomplish in our parish community. But, we have high hopes for its future.
I understand and fully support the goals of SAVES (St. Alexander Volunteer Effort Service), especially since it seeks to develop a feeling of family and fellowship within the St. Alexander Nevsky community. Since the Christian faith is founded on the love that Christ lived and died for all, and since we are each, as Christians, bearing witness to that love, I would like to be able to share my love in the following ways:
Be a foster grandparent
Be a foster grandchild
Regular transportation (i.e. church on Sunday, grocery shopping)
Emergency (i.e. once only)
Transportation (doctor appointment, etc.)
Host guest for special occasion (college student at Easter, etc.)
Visitation of sick
Visitation for companionship
College outreach (chatty letters, snacks during finals, etc.)
Be penpal (old age, retirement home VA hospital, prison)
Overnight child care
Emergency child care
Meal Service (cooking)
Be a township resource person
Host person(s) during emergency situation (i.e. I or 2 nights)
Visitation of new families
Teenage support hotline
Special work crew (helping others with difficult chores, etc.)
(*l didn’t notice this item on the list, but I thought it might be helpful in a time of need.)
In an extreme emergency, I would prefer:
_____to be called at any time.
_____to be called before midnight.
_____not be called after __________, please.