By: Amy Johnson
New Virginia United Methodist Church has found a new way to meet new needs in its community. As the resources in Warren County become more and more centralized in Indianola, it became clear through interviews with the schools and community leaders that local resources are scarce. This led to several ministries in the past, such as the Winter Coat drive and support to keep the local food pantry open. As of September, though, it has led to an even wider ministry in Southwest Warren County: a welcoming place to share non-food essentials.
Driving 30 minutes to Indianola for essentials like toilet paper and paper towels seemed unreasonable, but with no store in town and no resource for gas, residents struggled to provide simple necessities. One resident whose severely disabled spouse has been denied disability despite the recommendation of his doctor said, "There are a few places I can get toilet paper if I can't afford it, but it takes two gallons of gas to get there and two to get back. It actually costs money to get help! And I just can't go far from home in case something happens."
With many stories of such frustrations, the church decided to shed a little Christ on the situation. The congregation stores in a room that used to be for Sunday School cases of non-food essentials.
One member said, "It was sad when we could no longer keep up the Sunday School, but maybe it was time for us to see some new needs in our community that we could tackle."
The congregation schedules distribution on the second Wednesday each month, when the youth group is there to help with some of the lifting. "We are all working together!" explained one of the youth. "Sometimes it is our family who needs help, and sometimes we are the ones helping! I just love God and my church!"
The non-food essentials are also distributed as needed throughout the month. "No one is turned away," commented the committee organizer, laity member Sharon Dunkin. The program has served eleven families this past month, many of whom the church can help in other ways by connecting through this ministry.
I have personally seen this change our community. A mother came in last week. She thanked me and said it means so much because they haven't even been able to get the kids coats. I was able to say, 'Let me tell you about another ministry we have,' and gave them a coat for each of the kids in their family that for some reason we happened to have held back when we sent the other leftovers to the school. They were overwhelmed—that we heard them and were able to reach out to them where they were with no questions asked.
This is a great ministry that is helping the congregation get to know the community better. Thanks be to God, to the district for the grant we received, to local businesses and individuals who have made donations, and to all who are brave enough to seek help. May we all be so brave!