Seeking volunteers for potential shower trailer ministry

When homeless persons are asked what they need, they most often say: A shower. Cities all over the U.S. are finding creative ways to offer showers. In Mesa, Paz de Cristo rents a shower trailer each Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., during which 60 people will take a shower.

As we continue our ministry to the NW Valley homeless, the Mission and Outreach Committee is exploring the use of a shower trailer, both with I-HELP churches, like The Palms who do not have showers, but also to surrounding communities with sizeable homeless populations.

To facilitate this ministry, we will need volunteers to take a shower trailer to a site, set it up for use and then service the trailer to prepare for its next use. Each trip demands 4-6 hours of time, a vehicle able to tow the trailer and familiarity with the use of the trailer.

If you are interested in such a ministry, contact Max Klinkenborg at 816.377.4618, John Durbin at 623.693.8866, or Suzanne Boisclair at 603.494.8242.

Interested volunteers will be a great encouragement to the Board of Mission and Outreach as they explore this new
ministry.

WISE Moment for Mental Health

As The Palms focuses on LGBTQ Pride and National Hunger Awareness Month, it is a blessing that our church is a safe place to speak openly, advocate fully, and remain present with our LGBTQ Community. There is still much to do to ensure that our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer brothers and sisters experience rights and freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Thank you for your commitment to be the church!

The coronavirus pandemic has put the LGBTQ community, particularly those aged 50 and up, at increased risk in several ways. A history of systemic discrimination and poorer health outcomes is part of the reason. Coupled with the fact that many LGBTQ individuals do not feel comfortable coming out to their health care providers and other possible resources, these precious souls are not receiving the help they need. Loneliness is another big concern. Many live alone and don’t have people to check on them to help ensure that regular medical appointments and that proper access to food and household necessities is available to them. Lack of companionship leads to additional stress, increased depression and may lead to the use of alcohol or other substances.

How can we help? First, reach out to your friends. Stay connected! If you know people who are particularly vulnerable, offer what you can: resources, phone numbers, companionship. Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of those who may be at risk. Check out the links provided below. Lets keep working on ways to be Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive & Engaged for the mental health of everyone in our community!

After the Rain

by Pastor Jim Alexander

There’s always a rainbow after the rain.

The Church of the Palms has been encouraged to focus on some aspect of mental health each month for the past several months. Our areas of focus have been: Self Esteem (February), Developmental Disabilities Awareness (March), The Warning Signs of Mental Illness (April), and Mental Health Awareness Month/WISE Congregation for Mental Health Survey (May). We have provided tips and tools along with hotlines and websites to support our community along the way.

As we continue on our quest to become a WISE Congregation for Mental Health, our WISE Steering Committee has been very busy developing their plans and drafting the WISE Covenant that will be presented to the Church for adoption. The results from the congregational survey and input from across the membership of The Palms as we develop the content of The WISE Covenant. Please continue to pray that we may draw the circle wider as a welcoming, inclusive, supportive and engaged congregation for all people. Our Mental Health Focus for the month of June is twofold. June is LGBTQ Pride Month and it is also National Hunger Awareness Month. These two go very well together and here’s why.

The coronavirus pandemic has had unexpected effects for LGBTQ people around the world: forcing some LGBTQ citizens who may not be accepted by their family and friends to face hostile living environments. The pandemic is also placing vulnerable people of all walks of life at risk of homelessness and employment insecurity. It has also become very apparent with the financial and social destruction being leveled by the pandemic, that certain government agencies are stalling progress on potential legal changes that could grant LGBTQ and other marginalized people greater rights.

In an ordinary year, Pride celebrations would offer a chance to gather together, celebrate the achievements of the community and reflect on the future for social change.

But four months ago, more than 220 Pride celebrations scheduled worldwide were cancelled or delayed, including Phoenix Pride. The Palms has participated in this event for the past three years.

“LGBT people around the world are insanely resilient, but they face isolation every day in their life,” says J. Andrew Baker, co-President of Interpride, the international association of Pride organizers. “One of the challenges we find today is that LGBT people are even more isolated.” To overcome that isolation, the world’s biggest international Pride networks, Interpride and the European Pride Organizers Association, are organizing a “Global Pride” to be celebrated online on June 27. Global Pride organizers are planning a 24-hour live streamed event, including remote contributions from international Prides, speeches from human-rights activists, workshops with activists and high-profile performers yet to be confirmed.

Be sure to check out the Interpride website and make your plans to participate! The Palms will provide reminders and additional information about this event.

As a church, let us look for ways to make The Palms a safe place for those who may be experiencing abuse in their homes and communities due to their sexual orientation. Whether you are a part of the LGBTQ community or not, if you feel that you are not safe in your home, remember: you are not alone, you are loved and we will provide help to you. Call Pastor Jim or Pastor Paul at 623.977.8359.

Because there are so many people unemployed/underemployed, homeless, or displaced due to the pandemic, we also want to focus on the ways in which we might address the issue of hunger during this month. The People of The Palms have been consistently generous in providing food for I-Help, HART Pantry, and various food banks within the Sun City area. We are meeting the urgent needs of those who would otherwise be going without.

There are mental health concerns associated with food deprivation. Nearly 15 % of all households in the United States did not have enough to eat daily and suffered from recurring hunger before the pandemic, and that percentage has increased dramatically. The emotional and psychological tension associated with hunger can be devastating to individuals and whole families. Here are some ways to ensure that we are doing our part.

Donate
Donating, whether money or food, is a great way to help local food banks. Most donations to food banks are made between Thanksgiving and Christmas — which is great — but donations are needed year-round. Monetary donations allow the food banks to buy food during the less popular months for giving. You can drop your donation off in the church office. Make sure you mark it HUNGER RELIEF.

Volunteer with a Food Bank
It doesn’t always take a big financial investment to make a big impact. Volunteering is a great way to spend your time making a difference. By volunteering, you give families the opportunity to use the money they have towards bills and other living expenses while being able to have food on the table. In addition, volunteering can be a great family gathering, team bonding or employee engagement event. Witness firsthand how your presence and support are affecting those in your community!

To find a food bank in Arizona, visit the website of the Arizona Food Bank Network.

Continue to Bring Food and Fill the Shopping Cart
Food drives help stock shelves and play a vital role in encouraging community participation. Continue bringing your non-perishable food items to the church and fill the shopping cart. If you are not able to bring it yourself, please call the church office at 623.977.8359 and we will arrange to have your items picked up.

I-HELP Needs Your Help This Summer

The Church of the Palms has been hosting I-HELP for more than six months, and we have seen 12 of our guests acquire housing. Since the lockdown, we have had seven guests in the program. Each new guest is tested for COVID-19, and we have an extensive protocol of taking temperatures, social distancing, wearing masks, hand washing and wiping down all surfaces before and after we host. This will be our first summer (June, July, August) hosting the program, and we need your help in the following areas:

  • Meals: We need evening meals prepared — as well as breakfast and lunch the following day — by three different volunteers. Laurie Cathey (623-238-3826) is our coordinator for food. You can bring the food to the church after 4 p.m. on Mondays and Fridays that we host. You are always welcome to serve and eat with the guests, but it’s not required.
  • Monitors: We also need monitors to stay with our guests. We have two shifts:10 p.m. to 3 a.m. and 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. We need two monitors for each shift; new monitors will be paired with an experienced monitor. Vickie Ashenbrenner (831-233-2548) is our monitor coordinator.
  • Laundry: After each night of hosting, we have sheets and pillowcases that need to be laundered before the next time we host. If you are interested in helping with laundry, you can do it at the church with our washer and dryer or take it home to do. Laundry is available on Tuesday and Saturday mornings after we host. Contact Max Klinkenborg (816-377-4618) if interested in helping.

I-HELP continues to meet the needs of the homeless in the Northwest Valley. Through the generosity of four other churches, we are providing seven nights of lodging and a place to be during the day to keep our guests safe. During these challenging times, the program is needed more than ever. Thanks for your prayers and support.

Being The Palms: Supporting the Homeless Among Us

From the Social Justice Action Team at The Church of the Palms UCC:

One of the positive things about being hunkered down in our homes during the COVID19 pandemic is that it provides opportunities to do something special for those who have it so much worse than we do. Take, for example, our growing homeless population. The Palms provides several programs for this growing population in Phoenix and communities in the Northwest Valley.

HART Pantry: Helping At Risk Teens. The HART Pantry provides weekend food bags to teens who do not have enough food when they are not in school. But the HART Pantry is so much more. It is a community outreach program which began in 2011 as a mission of faith-based organizations in Peoria. The HART Pantry also partners with Eve’s Place, a 501(c)(3) charity that helps victims of domestic abuse and teen violence in the West Valley. The HART Pantry also enjoys the support of individual community members and corporate partners. Church of the Palms members serve on the Board of Directors for HART Pantry and have played a significant role in the annual backpack and graduation gift card programs as well as with monthly food donations. Sadly, the number of teens needing support from the HART Pantry continues to grow, with consideration now being given to expand and serve those at the middle school level.

Children First Academy: Church of the Palms, through the Board of Mission and Outreach, has made contributions of books, electronic devices, and water to Children First Academy for several years. This academy is a charter school near downtown Phoenix which serves homeless elementary age school children in the region.

I-HELP: Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program. I-HELP a program of Lutheran Social Services, is designed to help the growing numbers of working people who have lost access to affordable housing. The 90-day program helps the men and women in the program develop a life plan that restores them to permanent housing. They are assisted by a full-time case worker from LSS, to locate the resources needed and keep them on task for the 90 days or less. As a supporting church, The Palms provides housing, food, and laundry every Monday and Friday night to as many as 12 women and men in the program. The program is for adults over the age of 18, not for families with children. Five other churches in the Surprise, El Mirage and Sun City communities are also hosting churches The COTP Service Committee purchased sheets and prepared them to fit the sleeping mats and have provided additional support supplies for program participants. The program runs with volunteers: the costs of a host church includes food, toiletries, laundry soap and cash gifts designated for I-HELP. Volunteers also serve as overnight monitors, preparing meals, doing laundry, and providing transportation to and from the day programs. There is also additional cost to the Church for utilities and bus operations.

Shower Trailer Program: One of the most requested needs of the homeless population is the opportunity to take a shower. For general health and to be prepared for employment, job interviews, and/or social service agency interviews, a shower provides increased self-esteem and opportunity for success. With this in mind, the COTP Board of Mission and Outreach has explored the possibility of purchasing a shower trailer and recruiting individuals to carry out this ministry. The shower trailer operation would initially serve participants in the I-HELP program but would eventually serve nearby communities with a homeless population, including those in homeless camps near and around riverbeds and under bridges. Volunteers will transport the trailer to various locations on a predetermined schedule and conduct necessary maintenance and upkeep. The City of Surprise has been very supportive of this ministry.

FAITH Program: Financial Assistance Into Transitional Housing. This proposed program, which is still under construction and yet to be reviewed by the church council, would partner with Lutheran Social Services and include a source of funds to qualifying graduates of the Northwest I-HELP Program. I-HELP graduates need between $3,500 – $4,500 to cover first and last month’s rent, damage deposit, and utility deposits. This program would explore ways we could assist them with this need. This proposed FAITH program would be managed by church leadership. Our church council will need to review it all and vote on it before anything happens. Individuals wishing to support any of these programs through a donation of time, talent, and/or treasure are encouraged to contact one of the following: chair of the Board of Mission and Outreach (Suzanne Boisclair), chair of the I-HELP Team (Max Klinkenborg), or chair of the Social Justice Action Team (John Durbin).

Update from the I-HELP Meal Ministry

Thank you to all who have donated food and prepared meals for our I-Help (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program) guests. We, once again, have been blessed by the generosity of our church family and friends, and our guests have been so very appreciative of all that has been contributed.

We have learned that our ministry greatly benefits from volunteers bringing an already prepared, ready-to-eat evening meal on our host nights, rather than foods that require preparation. If you would like to provide the evening meal, breakfast or sack lunches for our guests, please sign up on the whiteboard in the I-Help closet next to King Hall, and let Laurie Cathey know what you will bring. Questions? Call Laurie Cathey or Suzanne Boisclair.

I-Help meal-ministry volunteers are needed in March for the following dates:

Dinner: March 2, 6, 30
Breakfast: March 31
Lunch: March 17, 31

Dysart Community Center and The Church of the Palms

The Church of the Palms has a partnership with the Dysart Community Center. Here are ways you can help:

February “Giving Tree” for After School Kids
Open your hearts for the kids. There are 200+ children in the After School Kids Club that are sometimes without socks and underwear. A giving tree will be in the narthex in February filled with suggestions of sizes on pink and blue hearts. Take one or as many hearts as you can to help. Bring the items back to the church.

English as a Second Language
Can you help teach English as a Second Language for adults? If you are interested in teaching a group, contact Joe Reyes or for one-to-one lessons contact Nancy Mueller. You can also contact Linda or Kurt Hofmann to assist with conversational English sessions.

Reading is FUNdamental
There are after school reading and game playing volunteer opportunities. They meet on Tuesdays from January through March. The bus leaves the church at 3:15 and returns by 5:00. Contact Jane Lane or Sharon Pitts.

Service Project Craft Group update

Seat belt covers, baby blankets, shawls, adult bibs, children’s quilts, walker bags, aprons with a butterfly on the bib, and lap size afghans/quilts. These are just some of the items on our tables in King Hall. ‘Twiddle Mitts’ for those with dementia to keep their hands busy, are still a popular item. Our inventory changes weekly. If there is an item or color or design you prefer, let us know, we can probably accommodate your request.

Why shop at a big box store for that special gift when you can give a one of a kind treasure? Beautiful gifts for anyone are available on the Service Project Craft Group tables in King Hall. All gift items are beautifully handmade and one of a kind. If you simply can’t decide, we have gift certificates available.

If you’re looking for items to decorate your home, this is a great place to start. You can find table runners, refrigerator towels and more.

Whether for as a gift for a friend or a gift to yourself, consider the Service Project Craft Group tables in King Hall as your first shopping stop, We offer reasonable prices and abundant stock.

Whatever sort of crafts you do, whether at home or here at church, we’d love to have you join us on Wednesday mornings from 9 -11 in the board room!

Carol Reynolds, team coordinator

I-HELP: Church of the Palms Provides Relief to the Homeless

Over a year ago our Social Justice Action Team was exploring ways to address the growing homeless population in our corner of Maricopa County. We learned of a program that was being used in Avondale and four of our members went to see the program in action at the First Baptist Church.

The program was I-HELP run by Lutheran Social Services and it was having success, twelve homeless people at a time. LSS provided the staff and resources for the program; churches provided housing and food for the guests for up to 90 days until they were settled in their own housing. It was not a short term solution, like a soup kitchen or a shelter, but an intentional effort, focused on adults who had lost their housing through some bad fortune and needed temporary help to get back on their feet.

With the blessing of the COTP staff and the church council, members of the Social Justice Action Team began conversations with LSS and the city of Surprise, offering to be a host church should an I-HELP program be developed in the North West Valley. LSS acquired the grant money needed to staff the program, other churches were recruited to host and the program was launched on Sunday, October 27, 2019.

A twenty member I-HELP Committee at COTP has been working for several months planning and preparing to host I-HELP every Monday evening beginning 10/28/’19. Many volunteers have already committed to drive the bus, provide food and stay overnight in addition to financial support.

Church of the Palms will make a difference in the lives of our neighbors who ‘need a hand up, not a hand out’. It will also be a blessing to our volunteers who show generosity and hospitality to our guests, a win-win endeavor.