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.

One of a kind, handmade gifts

Instead of gift shopping at a big box or department store, have you considered giving one of a kind, handmade gifts to your loved ones and friends? The Service Project Craft Group has a table of goods for sale in King Hall on Sunday mornings. They can also accommodate special gift requests or you can purchase gift certificates so your friends can select their own items.

If you are “crafty” and would like to use your skills to help others while you enjoy the fellowship of other crafters, consider joining the group on Wednesday mornings at 9:00 a.m. Bring your skills, ideas or use some of ours. We provide materials/craft supplies and even have sewing machines you can use.

The Palms is ready for the launch of I-HELP Northwest Valley

A 20-member I-HELP committee at Church of the Palms has been working hard for the last two months to get ready for the October launch of I-HELP Northwest Valley. I-HELP (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program), 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 caseworker from LSS, to locate the resources needed and keep them on task for the 90 days or less.

As a supporting church, COTP will be providing housing, food, showers, and laundry every Monday night to the 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 committee, led by Max Klinkenborg, has Laurie Cathey as food coordinator, Vickie Ashenbrenner coordinating nighttime monitors and John Durbin as transportation coordinator. Sharon Astle is our secretary and Mike Astle is the treasurer. The Service Committee has purchased sheets and prepared them to fit our mats. The program runs with volunteers and there will be signup sheets in the narthex.

There is a cost to being a host church and we are trusting members and friends of COTP to help with in-kind gifts of food, toiletries, and laundry soap and cash gifts designated for I-HELP.

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.

We have a beautiful quilt available with a dark green border, made from pieces Joyce Spaulding put together.

We’ve finished 150 soap holders for HART and are now working on special sheets for the sleeping mats of our “I-HELP” guests who will be coming soon.

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

Contributions for asylum seekers

The Social Justice team has found a new group helping asylum seekers, so we can once again accept contributions. We will be working with Lutheran Family Services through the Glendale Mission and Ministry Center, under the auspices of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). They can accept over 200 asylum seekers per week.

As before, small and medium men’s and women’s sized clothing and children’s clothing is needed. Small-sized shoes for adults and almost any size of children’s shoes are appreciated.

The following snack items are needed: granola bars, fruit snacks (Mott’s or Welch’s), and small packages of cookies. Peanut butter crackers are NOT needed because we have learned that peanut butter is not part of the diet of most of the asylum seekers.

Criminal Justice / Prison Reform

For I was hungry and you gave me food… I was in prison and you visited me . . . truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of My family, you did it to Me.  Matthew 25:36

One of the issues being addressed by our Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team is criminal justice/prison reform. Can you imagine that just receiving a letter at mail call can make you feel special and give you hope for a second chance? Sharing a short letter with one of the women in the AZ State Prison Complex at Perryville lets her know that she is not forgotten.

Red Mountain United Methodist Church in Mesa has the Matthew 25:36 Prison Ministry that includes a pen pal program with women at Perryville. The letters may be short but offer encouragement, hope, and an opportunity to share one’s faith. Just this small interaction can make a difference in the possibility of staying out of prison once released. According to American Journal of Criminal Justice, the normal recidivism rate is 40%, but for people who have penpals, it is only 5%. What a gift! 

We are building a pen pal program here in the west valley at Dove of the Desert United Methodist Church in Glendale. If you are interested in finding out how you might be able to give hope to a woman at Perryville and hopefully start a program at COTP, please contact Nancy Nonini (member of our Social Justice Action Team) at nancy.nonini@cox.net.

Also, look for additional information in upcoming Sunday bulletins on this topic and other issues being addressed by the Church of the Palms Social Justice Action Team.

Seeking Justice through Prayer Action Love Ministry & Support (PALMS)

Back-to-school is sooner than you think!

Our service to the homeless high school teens served by Hart Pantry dedicates July to gathering school supplies for back-to-school. Here’s the list being assembled:

backpacks
3-ring binders
filler paper (college ruled)
subject dividers
2-pocket folders
composition books
calculators
geometry kits (protractor, compass, ruler)
highlighters
erasers
glue sticks
planner
index cards

The collection deadline is July 31st.

Yes, It Takes a Village

One cannot miss hearing about the U.S. immigration problems—especially in Arizona—as information is on every news medium daily. Who are these immigrants? Why are they here? What is our responsibility for them?

Members of our Social Justice Team (SJT) have been involved in working with asylum seekers (asylees) at the Revolution Church in Tolleson. The Reverend Raul Salgado and his parishioners have been providing food; at least one or two nights’ shelter; showers; clothing and travel arrangements for these men, women and children who have been given approval to seek asylum. They are here upon acknowledgment of a legitimate fear of persecution and have been forced to flee their country because of that persecution, war, or violence. They are brought to this church, and many others in the Phoenix area, in preparation for their continued journey to a relative or friend while waiting for approval of asylum through the courts—which may take from 6 months to several years.

But who are they? Those that we have worked with are from mountain areas of Central America’s Golden Triangle—Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. 90% of those who seek shelter at Revolution Church are from Guatemala and 10% from Honduras. Most speak no English (or very little). They are single mothers and single fathers traveling with one or more children, including infants. They arrive in groups of 50 to 100 disheveled, in need of a shower, and hungry. It’s primarily members of that church who can communicate with them, but unfortunately, they are so very busy preparing food, finding clothing that fits, and arranging transportation to their next location, there is little time for just conversation. Our SJT has provided clothing and incidentals; sorted bags and boxes of clothing by size, gender and purpose; after the shower, searched for clothing that fits the recipient; served food; provided and packaged small packets of food to be taken with them on their next journey; and provided transportation to the airport or bus station.

But, we and about 50 of Rev. Selgado’s church members, are not the only ones who provide help. Volunteers from several churches and volunteer health workers check for fevers and provide meds as necessary while looking for any serious health problems. In addition, several retired doctors bring donuts for them.

Though we do not speak their language and they do not speak ours, it is evident that they proud, thankful for our help, and respond with smiles, hugs, and “gracias” (thank you) for all that is being done on their behalf. Those we have seen are loving towards their children The children are typical of those we all know—fun-loving, can’t resist a ball, and often cling close to their parent. Yes, it takes a village and more, it takes a nation to resolve this problem in a humanitarian way.

…inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. –Matthew 25:40

God willing, may we continue to be a part of the necessary village.

Letter of gratitude from HART Pantry

I wish to express my gratitude to your committee and your church for the 36 graduation gift cards you provided. They have been delivered to the schools and will be presented to the respective students at the time of their graduations.

Church of the Palms continues to step up and support our at-risk and homeless teens on a continuing basis, and I know from the school administrators that it is appreciated. As you know, we never know the names of our recipients, but they are made aware of who is helping them and they are grateful. Your desire to help HART Pantry is very important to us. We value your support of our mission to help homeless and at-risk teens in our local west valley high schools. Your donation is a major addition to our ability to keep providing extra student support to our kiddos.

We are aware that there are many good and responsible nonprofits in our community and we are humbled and blessed that you chose HART Pantry. Your continuing support of our youth is so important as they face the adult world; an education is necessary for them to prosper.

Thank you again; we are well aware that without the support of the Church of the Palms, our nonprofit would not function at the level we desire and need.

Sincerely,
Ruth H. Langford, Executive Director

HART Pantry

Community labyrinths

Come walk, pray, reflect, and return to the world, different.

We have created two labyrinths, recognizing the diversity that is embedded in our church and community. One is long, and one is short; please make use of both. The longer one will follow the traditional meandering path that has been used for centuries. Recognizing that that path is simply too far for some, a second labyrinth was designed to meet the needs of those who require the assistance of walkers.

The beautiful new peace pole, created by metal artist Dawn Delaney, is installed in our large labyrinth! Its solar panels will enable it to glow from within at night.

We hope this tool for meditation and reflection can help all of us find meaning right here, right now, in our lives. We invite and welcome all in the community beyond our doors to experience this spiritual practice.

Church of the Palms UCC peace pole and labyrinth

 

 

 

 

 

The Labyrinths at The Palms dedication plaque the peace pole at The Labyrinths at The PalmsThank you to Max Klinkenborg for coordinating this project and to the many volunteers who came to build it.

image credits: Rev. Paul A. Whitlock, Senior Pastor, Church of the Palms UCC, and Nancy Tsuchiya