The Rev. Ron Patterson’s intuition lit up in March when he learned about the UCC’s proposed Mission:1 project. Then he saw the promotional video at the Florida Conference meeting leading up to General Synod 28 this month in Tampa, Fla., and he was on fire.
“I got a little bit of a head start, because I’m on [Executive] Council and it was discussed at the Development meeting,” said Patterson. “When Ben [the Rev. J. Bennett Guess] brought the idea forward, it just sounded like such a neat thing to do.”
From a food-packaging event and volunteerism at local food banks to mission moments covering sustainable international agriculture and population control, Patterson’s church, Naples (Fla.) UCC, has hit the ground running in support and planning of Mission:1.
Affirmed unanimously by Executive Council, "Mission: 1" plays on the prevalence of the number "1" in the Nov. 1-11, 2011, timeframe (11-1-11—11-11-11). During that period, the UCC pledges to back its "that they may all be one" motto with a campaign to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks and marshal its 5,300 congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide.
Naples UCC’s multifaceted Mission:1 plan includes an all-day packaging event Oct. 29. The goal is 111,111 meals at 18 cents per meal, or nearly $20,000, said Patterson. Youth and young families will lead this piece of the project.
“These are prepackaged meals in a bag that can be boiled and serve four people,” said Patterson, now in his eighth year at Naples UCC. “They are nutritionally balanced with soy protein and have an extremely long shelf life. We’ve shipped some to Haiti; the food banks give them out as fast as they can be packaged.”
An anonymous donor has given $8,100 toward the prepackaged meals, said Patterson. “We have very few social services here in Collier County. There is no Welfare Department, and anything done for the homeless and hungry is done through philanthropy and private donors.”
If each Naples UCC member writes a letter to Congress on behalf of the homeless, hungry and hurting, 1,100 pieces of mail will be sent to elected officials, said Patterson. “Then there is the local homeless shelter, St. Matthew’s House, which also has a soup kitchen. A lot of our people volunteer there.”
In addition, the church plans its annual Neighbors In Need campaign this fall.
Naples UCC accelerated its awareness of hunger and other social issues a few years ago, said Patterson, when “we started giving up major floral displays during Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving services. Instead, people now give to the two food banks in our area. Instead of giving money for poinsettias, we raised $9,000 last Easter.”
Other ideas being bandied about include a “Lose 11 Pounds To End Hunger” campaign to raise money per pound of participants’ weight loss; asking for donations in multiples of 11 ($.11, $11.11, $111.11, etc.); a “change collection” each Sunday; and “collecting lots of food,” said Patterson.
“We’re hoping to divide these funds between national and local levels,” said Patterson. “I don’t know how many more ideas are going to come, but this is a creative bunch of people here.”
More information on “Mission:1” is available at<ucc.org/mission1>.