“I think one of the ways that this has helped us be the church is to see abundance where others see scarcity. Yes, there are limits to what we can do face to face right now, and we have to think creatively about how we can shine Christ’s light,” said the Rev. Dr. Sarah D. Allen, pastor for children, youth and families.
The requests are approved by a board that reviews them weekly. Almost immediately after it was announced, the fund grew to $75,000 through gifts from church members, fundraising and special offerings, said Eledge, who sits on the review board.
Unlike similar financial assistance programs, the fund helps people facing a wide variety of needs – everything from bus passes to school supplies. With the sudden growth of the fund and word of its existence, the number of requests exploded, as well. Now several requests for help arrive every day.
“It’s been both heartwarming to see the donations come in, but it is hard to see how many requests come in,” said Nicole Kelly, a member of the church mission outreach team who also reviews applications for help.
By early December, aid had been given to 180 families in northwest Austin through the Good Samaritan Fund.
“The congregation rallied around this, it is the hallmark of who we are,” Allen said.
The financial assistance program was designed to recognize that every household has unique needs, Allen said. Church members wanted to respond with mercy and grace to the needs of people around them and to be able to say “yes” as often as possible.
That outlook pays spiritual dividends for both First-Austin and the area it serves.
“I have seen Christ in both the generosity of our community and in the other faith communities in our area, and in the people requesting help when they need it,” Allen said.
The church has extended the call to neighboring churches, who are also giving to the fund. It is now looking at maintaining and expanding the program even after the pandemic is over.
Gifts to the Good Samaritan Fund go directly to households in need in the Greater Austin area. There is no administrative cost or overhead, so the full amount goes directly into the hands of those who need it.
Donors may give by directing checks to First Presbyterian Church, 8001 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78731 with the memo line “Good Samaritan Fund.” Contributors may give online by texting FPCATX GOODSAM to 73256 and following the instructions to pay by credit card.