Churches step in to fill needs
February 09, 2014 1:58 AM

Leaders of Trinity United Methodist Church, in Indiana, were very interested when Project Share got off the ground last fall, because the church for years has operated its own community outreach service of helping those in need.

Some of the money for that aid comes from Sunday collections and some from special offerings of the church’s 600 congregation members.

Church secretary Dawn Spence said Trinity received 163 applications for help during 2013, and the church funded about 80 percent of those requests with roughly $6,500.

The church’s donations helped those in need pay rent and utility bills and buy groceries and medicine. In addition, the church distributed about 85 bags of food donated by congregation members.

Spence said Trinity has its own internal guidelines for deciding which applicants to help and with how much money. A committee considers the requests but a provision is in place to give aid immediately in true emergencies.

Project Share has been useful as an information-sharing system, Spence said, to avoid duplication of assistance by the Project Share partners and in enabling churches such as Trinity to help the most people possible.

Spence said she uses the email list of Project Share partners to quickly put out a call for more assistance if a particular request for help is bigger than Trinity can handle on its own.

Charles Spadafora, president of the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul, said the local chapter was developing a similar coordination of services when the society’s members learned of Project Share. Spadafora said Indiana County Department of Human Services Executive Director Bonni Dunlap has “expertly blended” local churches and government agencies to work together.

Spadafora said the local Society of St. Vincent de Paul has been assisting eight to 10 people a week, and in 2013 the society distributed about $90,000 in aid, helping people pay for utilities and housing, get needed transportation, buy food and medicine, and meet other domestic needs.

The local society is sponsored by St. Bernard Roman Catholic Church, the St. Thomas More University Parish, the Church of the Resurrection and Our Lady of the Assumption Parish. The aid comes from parishioners’ contributions and from the sale of items donated to the thrift shop in the North Fourth Street Plaza in White Township.

The local Society of St. Vincent de Paul also supports another society chapter in West Virginia and has started an “Adopt an Elder” program that coordinates visits by volunteers to residents of area nursing homes who don’t get much company.

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