Every year, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) offers unused restricted grant funds to the larger church in areas that focus on everything from health care in Appalachia to education of Native Americans to training ministers in the western United States. Congregations can submit grant requests for these funds to presbyteries, which in turn send one grant per category to its synod. The synod then must choose one grant request per category to send to the PCUSA, which in turn chooses which requests to fund.
In 2018, the Synod of the Trinity received six requests from its presbyteries that fell under the PCUSA fund of “helping meet economic needs of people needing food, clothing and other wants.” The Synod passed on a request from Cove Presbyterian Church in Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery to the PCUSA, but because all of them were in line with the spirit of the Synod’s Peacemaking Grant, all six were awarded $1,000 grants. (Note: The amount available at the PCUSA level for that fund in 2018 was less than $1,500.)
“This fits in with our Peacemaking objectives,” said Synod treasurer Chantal Atnip, who leads the Synod’s Finance & Budget Team. “We felt as an advisory group and leadership of the synod, all of the projects were worthy and fit into our ends.”
What follows is a brief description of the six grant requests that were considered for the PCUSA’s Mission Restricted Funds grant and were awarded Synod Peacemaking Grants:
Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, WV (Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery)
In the city of Weirton, WV, 16.6 percent of the residents live below the Federal Poverty Limit. At least 15-20 residents contact the church on a monthly basis requesting support to avoid utility disconnection or to restore service that has been disconnected. The deacons have provided help on a limited basis for the past nine months.
For 2018, the church has budgeted $160 per month at $40 per request to support four families per month. The church receives calls from people who are dependent on oxygen who have no power, young mothers with infants with no heat in their homes and residents with no clean running water to bathe in and cook with.
The grant funds would in no way resolve this situation, but it would aid more families in need. The congregation is praying for ways to show the members of the community that it cares about them and encourage them to come worship at Cove Church. This program is part of the church’s desire to reach out beyond its stained glass windows to those who are in obvious need.
Central Presbyterian Church, Chambersburg, PA (Presbytery of Carlisle)
Currently in the United States, one of three families with children in diapers is unable to afford this basic need. A sufficient supply of disposable diapers is needed to have a child attend day care. Many families are not able to use cloth diapers because access to private laundry facilities is not available. Monies the families receive from food stamps and “Woman, Infants and Children” cannot be used for the purchase of diapers. Knowing all this, it is evident that a great diaper need exists in this country.
Central Church’s vision is “Sharing the heart of Christ from the heart of the city.” With this in mind, Central reaches out to the community. The Diaper Depot at Central Church in Chambersburg, PA, distributes disposable diapers to families with babies and toddlers who cannot afford this basic need. Families in need of diapers are required to register by providing basic information. Each family may register up to two children. Families are serviced without regard to race, religion or ethnic origin.
Once a month, families are able to receive 50 diapers each for up to two children. Also provided are a hot breakfast, fresh seasonal produce and children’s clothes and items. Daycare is provided to allow the parents/guardians a time to relax and talk with other adults while their children are being supervised in the same room. All are provided free of charge.
Columbia Presbyterian Church, Columbia, PA (Presbytery of Donegal)
Hands Across the Street is the mission outreach program of Columbia Presbyterian Church located in a community where poverty means that every child is entitled to the free breakfast and lunch program at school. During the summers, Hands Across the Street has participated in the Summer Food Service Program for six years. Last summer, over 8,100 lunches were provided to children. Often, the children come to the feeding sites with an adult.
Adults do not qualify for the SFSP lunches, but they are hungry, too. This year bag lunches for the adults accompanying the children were provided as a separate program. There was a need to purchase the food and pay the wages for the food manager for this added feature.
The Soup Kitchen is a mission project under the Mission and Outreach Committee of the Huntingdon Presbyterian Church. It celebrated its 15th anniversary in April of 2018. The Soup Kitchen prepares a hot meal complete with salad and desserts every Thursday, including Thanksgiving. Each week, it serves around 100 people. There are nine local churches that help prepare the meals throughout the year on a rotating basis.
This program is the only one of its kind in the Huntingdon area. Most of the guests are at or below the poverty level. The guests not only receive a hot meal, but they also are treated like family and come for the fellowship and friendly atmosphere.
The kitchen is in dire need of new equipment, especially a gas stove. This money will be used toward the purchase of a new commercial-grade gas stove.
St. Paul’s United Presbyterian Church, North Cambria, PA (Kiskiminetas Presbytery)
St. Paul’s Church serves a free meal once a month for anyone in need of food and/or fellowship. The town was devastated a number of years ago with the closing of the main industry of coal mining. St. Paul’s is a small membership church of 32 trying to make a difference in an economically hard-hit town where more than half of the children in the local school qualify for free or reduced lunches. The local food bank serves over 250 people a month. Most of St. Paul’s membership gives generously to keep the church afloat and wants to help others who are struggling. Even though they are small in numbers (32), the congregation wanted to help the poor with a healthy meal once a month.
The funding would help buy more food and help cover operating expenses to keep the program afloat. They have been feeding up to 35 people. The program began in the fall of 2017 with parishioners donating food and cooking it according to a theme (i.e. chili night, Christmas ham, etc.).
Waverly United Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA (Pittsburgh Presbytery)
Waverly Church has created a “paper bank,” which is much like a food bank but one that provides household paper products and other necessities that cannot be purchased with SNAP benefits (food stamps) to the clients who visit Second United Presbyterian Church of Wilkinsburg’s “We Care” Food Pantry each month. The paper bank is administered by the Waverly Mission Committee. Each month, the church provides 60 bags, with each bag containing a paper towel roll, two toilet paper rolls, five garbage bags and a box of tissues. These items are purchased with donations from parishioners, church funds and fundraisers done at Waverly.
In exploring the sustainability of the program last year, food pantry volunteers were asked about the importance of these products to families visiting the pantry. The response was that some people have limitations on how much they can carry or can eat because of dietary issues and may choose not to take some food, but they never leave behind paper products.