Community. A simple word that means so much, especially to those who attend the Madison Community Seventh-day Adventist Church. From the bi-monthly meals we prepare and serve at the local day shelter, to the Blessings Box we have in our front lawn that we stock weekly with food for those who may be facing food insecurities, to our newest outreach called Project SMALL (single mothers and little lads), we are always looking for ways to engage our church within the neighborhood.
Faced with a room full of donated goods from church members as well as those in the community, the question became what type of outreach event we could hold to reach those in need. Understanding the impact that Covid has had on many people financially, it came to mind that we hold a Community Giveaway. Instead of charging people for the goods, everything would be given free, creating an inviting environment where those could come, regardless of their ability or inability to pay for things, and take what they may need.
What started as a simple Community Giveaway, utilizing the donated items in the church basement, soon became so much more. Reaching out to local businesses, we were able to secure donations of fresh produce, bakery products, pizza, and ice cream tokens for kids that stopped by. Along with the donations from businesses, we put together a budget buying school supplies for local kids.
To say the Sunday, August 22, event went well is an understatement. Nobody was sure what to expect since this was our church’s first time holding an event like this, but it was more than we expected. We saw around 75-100 people, some that came back more than once. Our inventory of school supplies ran out within the first half hour, as well as the toys, and tables of household goods. People were filling up boxes with bedding and clothing, in addition to stopping by the Blessings Box and stocking up on groceries.
We made sure to have volunteer church members in the yard, to make ourselves available for those that may need assistance or have questions. Along the way, many showed gratitude and appreciation for what our church was doing. One woman who stopped by stated that her family was finally moving into their first home after being homeless for the past three years. Another gentleman walked over and stated that he was currently homeless and in need of clothing to survive the cold Wisconsin winters. Many of the kids that stopped took advantage of the juice boxes, popcorn, and frozen Icees we had in the cooler, remembering our church from previous years of Vacation Bible School, asking if that’s what was taking place and when it will happen again.
Speaking to many of the kids while their parents and/or grandparents took part in the giveaway, it became a question as to what other fun activities our church could host. One young boy suggested we host an outdoor movie night, with popcorn, cotton candy, and games. Another boy stated he wanted our church to just come over and play basketball with them.
Simple and small gestures mean so much to people. From hosting the giveaway to communicating with young kids and understanding their needs, it has become evident that those in the community see our church as a safe place. No fear of judgment or discrimination, rather, sets of loving and open arms willing to be there at no cost. “And the King will answer and say to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” Matthew 25:40
As a first-year event, we used this as a learning experience on how we can improve for years to come. In looking to incorporate more businesses and partnering with barbers to offer free, back-to-school haircuts for kids, the possibilities of what we can do to make this more successful are endless. Just like our name states, we are a community. Not only to our members, but also to those outside our church doors where the need is oh so great.
Meaghan Yngsdal, Community Service Director for Madison Community Church