By Sue Sprang
SYNOD – Nine congregations recently benefited from grants received from the North/West Lower Michigan Synod’s Trapp Endowment Fund. The Trapp family gifted the synod with the funds about 20 years ago, stipulating they be directed to the northern portion of the synod. Here is how some of the grants are being used:
New Life, Spruce: $1,500, Little Free Food Pantry/Library – The Little Free Food Pantry/Library (LFFPL) began after a New Life member saw a news report about Little Free Food Pantries in other communities. She brought the idea to the congregation’s Church Outreach Committee who, along with the Congregational Council, thought it was a great idea. The congregation got on board and a member offered to build the pantry, with the church providing the needed supplies. Teachers in the congregation asked if books could be included – and that, too, was supported. The LFFPL was installed in June 2017.
The congregation is involved providing either food and books or money to help fill it. Donations have also been received from New Life friends, Alcona Elementary School teachers, and local groups and organizations. This year the Spruce Postal Carriers donated all the food from their recent food drive. This is in addition to community members who donate food when no one is at the church.
In the winter canned goods are stored in the church building with availability during office hours/worship times due to food safety concerns (frozen cans exploding/breaking seals, etc.), but the outdoor pantry is still stocked with items that can withstand freezing.
“Alcona County is one of poorest counties in the state, and I think people saw a need and this was a good way to do something small to try and make a difference,” said Pastor Chrissy Bright of New Life. “We have definitely seen an uptake in use due to increased food insecurity. The LFFPL is available 24/7. There is no requirement for use.”
Christ the King, Gladwin: $1,700, Kids Club – Christ the King’s Kids Club ministry began around 20 years with seed money from the St. John Lutheran Church, Saginaw, Trust Fund. The weekly afterschool program is staffed by adult and teen volunteers, with a director receiving a small stipend.
There are two ten-week cycles school each year – one in the fall and the other beginning shortly after the New Year. The goal is to provide a safe, caring, fun environment for children while providing quality learning, music, games, refreshments, and arts and crafts, but mainly to share God’s love and to be a place where children can share their ideas about/ask about God and the church, knowing they will be heard. The arts and crafts are substantial, with some projects taking the entire 10-week cycle. For example, each child made her/his own personalized quilt, which involved assistance from the congregation’s Quilters group.
At the onset of Kids Club, volunteers picked the children up from school and delivered them to the church. Now, in order to simplify the “red tape” of transporting others’ children, the kids are picked up by a Gladwin County Transit bus, with Christ the King covering the cost.
Grace, East Tawas: $850, Jared Boxes– According to its website, the goal of the Jared Box Project is ‘to lift the spirits of children in the hospital. The boxes symbolize the importance of play and are filled with toys, games, well wishes, hope, and love” (www.thejaredbox.com). Grace’s pastor, Matt Carpenter, learned about the project when his son received a Jared Box while in the hospital. Carpenter was impressed and talked with parishioner Eric Nunn about the project. Nunn ran with it. Grace now gathers items, packs the boxes, and delivers them to the St. Joseph Health System, which is based in West Branch but is also present in Oscoda and Tawas. Thanks to Grace and other groups, over 500,000 boxes have been distributed nationwide.
Grace, East Tawas:$1,000, Iosco County Coats for Kids –The purpose of the organization is to provide warm winter coats for families in need. While the focus is mainly on children, there are continual requests to help out other family members – so the organization tries to carry a wide inventory of adult coats.
Each year, an average of 1,300 winter coats are distributed through local schools and organizations. Whenever enough funds are available, gloves, hats, scarves, boots, and shoes are also provided. Items of clothing that cannot be used are recycled to Detroit Missions and local clothing pantries. In recent years, the gift of a cross has been put into the pocket of every child’s coat along with a message to remind us all that Jesus Christ loves us and is Lord of our lives. Last year, a pocket quilt was placed each coat with a cross sewn inside. This year, the children will receive cross necklaces.
Everyone involved with the ministry is a volunteer. The board members and many of the people who work on Coats for Kids are members of Grace and most of the other helpers are members of other churches in the county.
Peace, Gaylord: $500, Community Meals– This weekly outreach ministry is shared by other churches in the community and provides a meal for approximately 60-70 people on a weekly basis. Peace is responsible for six of those meals, which are served at the downtown Congregational Church. Members prepare the meal, serve, clean up, and also provide dessert. Generally, 8-12 people are involved in serving and cleanup.
Thanks to Peace and other congregations, approximately 3.400 were served last year. One of the highlights is always the Christmas dinner, where six turkeys are cooked by Peace members.
Messiah, Roscommon: $1,500, Food Give Away Truck – In 2016 Messiah Lutheran began an outreach program that involved the purchase of semi-trucks of food from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. The foundation for the food truck was laid in 2009, when Messiah started serving dinners to the community, providing nutritious meals to those in need. The dinners are still served, but the congregation wanted to make a greater impact by helping more than the 100 people it could feed in the fellowship hall. What started as a once-a-month dinner has grown into reaching out to hundreds of local people by bringing semi-trucks of food to give away.
Unlike many other area food programs, there is no income requirement, meaning the food is made available to all Roscommon County residents. The poverty level is high and it was the congregation’s concern that there were adults and children that may not be eating nutritious meals on a regular basis. The objective was to reach as many people in the community as possible, offering free food in large quantity. The food trucks offer meat, fresh and canned vegetables, and a great variety of items to choose from. Making a choice has appealed to those that attend the food giveaways. They get to choose what they want, and they aren’t given a pre-packed box of items that they may not like or use. The goal is for them to use the items.
Local churches and other organizations, as well as individuals, have come on board, reaching out to those who are often forgotten.
Other congregations receiving Trapp Grants were: Bethlehem, Traverse City: two grants totaling $1,350– both directed for youth ministries and scholarships; St. John, Grayling: $600 – youth ministry; St. Matthew, Herron: $300 – Community Christmas Brunch; and Trinity, Ocqueoc: $1,000 – Adopt a Family project.
Also, a $1,000 grant for northern travel was allocated to the synod.
“We’ve (synod staff) been spending more on travel in order to make sure our northern congregations get visited on a regular basis,” said Pastor David Sprang, Assistant to the Bishop and Director for Evangelical Mission for the N/W Lower Michigan Synod.
Sprang also shared that the Trapp Endowment Committee earmarked 10% of the fund for reinvestment.
“This is something we ask all our endowment committees to do,” he said. “Grants are given off the interest earned. Reinvestment keeps the endowments replenished.”
Any congregation in the Traverse, Sunrise, and Northern Bay Conferences are eligible (roughly anything north of M-61). The committee will consider any grant amount requested, but the average award is $1500 or less. Committee members whose ministry settings submit a request abstain from voting on that particular request.
The 2019 grant application will be finalized by September 15 and posted on Facebook and the synod website, and sent out by email. It will be due on or near November 15.
Current committee members are Rev. Christina Bright (chair), Rev. Paul Busekist, Rev. Matt Carpenter, Ms. Denise Palmer, Bishop Craig Satterlee, and Rev. David Sprang. The committee would be delighted to have a lay member from Traverse and Northern Bay as well. If anyone is interested in being on the grant committee please contact Pastor Bright at 989-736-7816 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.