Prior to COVID restrictions, the
Westminster DeKalb congregation had been offering bi-weekly community dinners to their neighbors. Uniquely situated in the highest density and lowest income neighborhood in DeKalb, it was a popular program that was beginning to transform the mission focus of the congregation. Then the virus hit and increased the food insecurity of this neighborhood and beyond.
After securing a variety of funding sources (including a Presbytery Peacemaking grant and a Synod of Lincoln Trails grant) and a significant partnership with the
DeKalb County Community Gardens organization, the church has expanded its offerings. They have been able to offer weekly drive-through food distributions, serving an average of 200 households/week (400 adults + 300 children), and a summer sack-lunch program for school aged children three times a week.
A dedicated team of about 25 volunteers have streamlined the weekly operation (
see the video) using conveyor belts, Kindles (to collect data), traffic cones and smiles. An additional 4 people pre-pack boxes of staples a day earlier and 6-9 people facilitate the sack-lunch program run each week. The goal in all of these efforts is to provide about 40 pounds of food to every household in a friendly and welcoming way, build community and keep everyone safe.
Known anecdotally as the church that says "Yes", these food initiatives have connected the church to not only the immediate neighbors, but to international students at NIU who are living with travel uncertainties and very limited resources. Many of those served have begun to volunteer their time as well.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Rev. Anita Stuart-Steva and her husband, Patrick Steva purchased and assembled an impressive Plexiglass drum shield for their inevitable return to in-sanctuary worship. An accomplished soloist, Pastor Anita also intends to share her voice with the congregation in song (thus the extra shielding). The
Middle Creek Church of Winnebago is blessed with a shady yard and plenty of space to hold worship outdoors for the near future, but will be prepared when the time comes to move inside. We are wondering when Anita will pick up drumming too!?