Conference Board of Discipleship offers Beyond the Walls grants

October 09, 2014

The Conference Board of Discipleship offers Beyond the Walls grants to assist local churches in developing experiments, programs, communication outreach events or collaborations in order to engage people in the neighborhood outside the local church walls. Proposals may be submitted by clergy or lay leaders, and must have at least one pastoral signature and one lay member/leader signature. Applicants may request up to $5,000, but most grants will be between $1,000 and $3,000. Click here to see the Round 1 and Round 2 recipients. Click here to see the Round 3 grant recipients.

Below is a story on how Castle Rock First United Methodist Church used the Beyond the Walls grant to fund its community outreach SOCK program.

Strengthening Our Community’s Kids (UMC Grant Report)

In her memoir, My Beloved World, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor states: “A role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, 'Yes, someone like me can do this.” She also notes that “you cannot value dreams according to the odds of their coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire. That will, wherever it finally leads, does at least move you forward. And after a time you may recognize that the proper measure of success is not how much you've closed the distance to some far-off goal but the quality of what you've done today.”

In a nutshell, Sotomayor has touched on the essential value of FUMC-Castle Rock’s community outreach SOCK program. Since beginning in January of this year, SOCK -- Strengthening Our Community Kids -- has provided an after-school program for kids from the South Ridge Elementary School every Tuesday afternoon from 4 to 5:30 pm. Not only are tutors prepared to help them with their math, reading, writing and computer skills, but volunteers from our congregation provide a meal and visit with the kids.

Currently staffed with half a dozen youth and adult volunteers, SOCK is currently mentoring 15 kids from the South Ridge community and several others who attend from outside. These are students who work one-on-one with an adult to strengthen their academic skills. Before the afternoon is over, there is time for games and social interaction with mentors and each other. Under the supervision of Rev. Rob White and Theresa Kepple (Program Director for FUM-CR), grant monies have been used to provide student materials. The status and progress of the program is shared routinely with the congregation and is routinely reviewed by the FUMC-CR Church Council.

As the program gathers momentum, SOCK anticipates adding an additional day and more mentors, continuing remedial instruction through the summer months, serving as many as 80 students per week, and working more directly with teachers at South Ridge Elementary to identify students in need and monitor their progress. An on-going goal of the SOCK program is to increase our church family’s awareness and interest in “beyond-church-walls” services. In light of this goal, on Maundy Thursday, April 17, our church will host a community meal. This meal will provide an opportunity for connection between our congregation and our community, among them, the families served by SOCK.

Below is a story on how Calhan United Methodist Church used the Beyond the Walls grant to start a food pantry in Eastern Colorado.

The Beyond the Walls grant helped start an outreach/service project called the Eastern Plains community Pantry (EPCP) to serve Calhan and the surrounding areas of eastern El Paso and southern Elbert counties. Six of the 15-member Board of Directors are members of the Calhan United Methodist Church. After one year of operation, the pantry is serving people in need and could be considered an exemplary community supported service.

The project has been carried out as described in the grant application with no changes in the original proposal. Highlights of the project include:

  • All work at the pantry is by volunteer; there are no paid employees.
  • Thirty-four volunteers provide approximately 550 volunteer hours per month. The pantry is fiscally strong after one year of operations. During the pantry's first month, 230 individuals were served. The number of individuals served monthly has increased with the pantry serving 784 people last month.
  • The 3,200-square-foot facility has been cleaned and remodeled to provide a welcoming atmosphere.

The three biggest challenges the EPCP Board faced in starting up the pantry were: facilities, funding and food sources. The pantry Board of Directors were able to rent a former retail store from the Calhan Fire Protection District for $250 per month. Project volunteers cleaned, painted, insulated, and repaired the building. The transformation from neglected store to inviting food pantry was amazing.

The Calhan churches and community individuals donated start-up money, the EPCP received four grants, and three fundraisers were held. The combination of donations, grants and fundraisers have provided enough money for a year's operating expenses and most of the funding for a second year.

The pantry Board signed an agreement with Southern Colorado Care and Share, Inc. to receive U.S. commodities. The Boy Scouts, the U.S. Postal Service and some of the local churches conduct food drives to help stock the pantry. Two stores and a trucking company donate food, but the pantry continues to look for more food sources. Currently, Eastern Plains Community Pantry has a great facility, good current funding and multiple sources for food collection. What seemed to be three big problems turned into minor issues.

The lessons learned from the establishment of the food pantry were: 1) people will come together for a good cause, 2) faith in God will get you through the trials and tribulations of a new worthwhile venture, and 3) leadership and planning are important components of success.