In 2008 as the recession grew we had a series of parish meetings to talk about our fears and worries, and how we could support one another through the crisis. Out of those meetings came the idea to establish a fund for parishioners who needed financial help. The church’s own finances were tight at that time, but we still found a way to do that, and to help some of our own through those difficult days.
Twelve years later I would love to be able to hold parish meetings to talk about the situation we are in now, but that is not possible. But we have been having those discussions with the vestry, Yesterday at our regularly scheduled meeting, which now takes place on Zoom, we focused on three questions:
- How can we be responsible stewards of the church’s resources through this crisis?
- How can we provide help to those in our community whose livelihoods are affected by the fallout from the pandemic?
- How can we provide help to those outside our community during this time?
The first question was the easiest. We are in good financial shape. Amazingly, giving has not gone down during these months we have not been able to gather, You have remained generous and faithful, for which we are grateful. The generosity of the last few years, coupled with the vestry’s faithful stewardship of those resources, means that we are weathering this storm well, Of course, we don’t know what the future holds, but for now we are confident that we can come out of the other side of this pandemic in good financial health. We are in a much stronger position now than we were when the recession began in 2008.
We found the answer to the second question by looking to our past. Once again, we are establishing a Parishioner Relief Fund. We have taken $20,000 from our special offerings fund (basically, our reserves) for this new fund. Anyone who would like to contribute to it is invited to do so. It is established with the intent of helping those who need assistance in paying rent, mortgage, food, utilities, or medical bills, Anyone needing that kind of assistance can come to me. I will write checks from my discretionary fund, which will be reimbursed from the relief fund. No applications to fill out, no committee approval needed. These will be grants, not loans. If someone needs help now and would like to pay back later, the repayments will go into outreach funds to help others, And if we make it through the pandemic with money still in the fund it will go into outreach.
Last, but certainly not least, we all believe that we have a responsibility as Christians to extend help to those beyond our doors. We already do this in so many ways, most recently with our campaign for RIP Medical Debt, which raised $55,000 and will relieve $5.5 million of medical debt for financially strapped households in Atlanta, We also last month voted to give money to Emmaus House and the Sandy Springs Mission to help with their feeding ministries, as well as sending $5,000 to help with medical needs at the Msalata Theological School in Tanzania, as we have done for many years.
It would be easy to say that’s enough. But yesterday the vestry voted to allocate $5,000 to establish a Community Food Pantry Fund. That money will go as direct donations to area food pantries or to shop for designated needs for the pantries.
We realize that feeding hungry people is one of the important things we can do right now. Initially we are going to focus on the Pop Up Food Pantries run by Solidarity Sandy Springs. These are two food pantries begun by mothers in Sandy Springs who realized that when schools closed many of their children’s classmates would be going hungry. One pantry is in the Samad restaurant on Roswell Road, north of Abernathy. The other is for now at Under the Cork Tree restaurant in the Prado off Roswell Road, just south of 285. They are now looking for a new location as the Cork Tree plans to reopen. The northern Pop Up Pantry began providing food to 10 families a day. Now they are serving 100 families a day. Everything in these pantries is donated, and all the work is done by volunteers. There is zero overhead.
Here’s how you can help:
First, you can make a financial donation to St. Dunstan’s earmarked for either the relief fund or the food pantry fund.
Second, we are going to hold weekly food drives. Initially, we will focus on these Pop Up pantries. We invite you to pick up items when you go to the grocery store, or order them if you’re having your groceries delivered. Starting tomorrow we’ll have bins outside the front doors of for you to leave the food, and I’ll bring it inside before I leave each day. Lucy Kaltenbach and Elise MacIntrye have agreed to coordinate delivery of the food to the pantries and shopping for perishable needs with money from the fund and donations.
The pantries also can use volunteers. Let me know if you’re interested.
Here’s what they need now:
- Spaghetti sauce
- Mac and Cheese
- Canned beans
- Dry beans
- Canned vegetables/soup
- Peanut butter
- Any other nonperishable items
So next time you’re at the store, or ordering groceries, please include these extras and bring them to church! While you’re here you can walk the nature trail or have a picnic in the Beech Grove. Pet Dunstan. Make it an outing, and help those among us who are undergoing real hardship.
Here is a link to a TV news story about the pantries:
I went home after the vestry meeting yesterday with a full heart. The discussions among the vestry and the careful balancing of responsible stewardship along with true Christian care and concern for our own community and our neighbors was so heartening. I am once again humbled by your generosity and commitment to following Jesus’ command to love one another. It is such a privilege to be your priest.
See you tonight at 8 for night prayers.