Written by Connie Larkman
Consider that statement by the United Church of Christ general minister and president the theme of the day as nearly 200 members of the UCC national staff lived out their faith, loved their community in a work day dedicated to service projects. The group, very visible in Faith,In Cleveland t-shirts a spent All Staff Day Thursday Sept. 27 staking a claim on the city the UCC has called home for 20 years.
During the organization's annual day of service, the UCC's largest display of community engagement since the launch of the Faith,In Project in June, volunteers spread out around the city, to show Cleveland neighborhoods and non-profit organizations some serious love.
Storey, a proud Clevelander, who came to that determination, he says, by way of rock and roll, is a fourth generation city dweller, living in the house his grandparents bought during the depression for $6,000. He is just finishing a film about the people of the Rust Belt, people with very little means, doing remarkable things outside of their comfort zone in an effort to make a difference. The documentary, 'Red, White and Blueprints' is all about people taking the time to stake their claim.
He challenged the group to think of small ideas that can be used to effect change around their community, and to embrace city rituals and traditions that make the place where they live special.
"It's important to remember you don't have to have an academic skill set to make a difference," Storey said.
In the afternoon, teams of staff members set out across the city to stake their claim, and spread the love around in Cleveland at seven different sites, using hard work and elbow grease – weeding beds at a community garden, organizing a congregation's thrift shop, sorting supplies at a medical supply organization, and shampooing carpets at an area church.
An urban farm in the Ohio City neighborhood, home to the Refugee Response program, welcomed a team of volunteers to do some weeding. The UCC partnered with the farm's CSA program this year – several staff members bought into a weekly community shares plan, and the just harvested vegetables have been delivered to buyers at the church house. Farm manager Shawn Belt said it was really amazing to see some the people who eat his produce coming out to work the land.
"It's very special – that primary connection between the farmer and consumer rarely happens anymore," Belt said. "So it's really amazing that a lot of the people who are helping here today are eating the food that we grow. And while any help we get here at the farm is great, I love when volunteers come because they tell others about the work they've done and the word spreads, building community, and that's amazing too."
Over at MedWish International, a non-profit organization that repurposes donated medical supplies and other healthcare products to send overseas to underdeveloped countries, the staff was grateful for the effort of sorting through dozens of boxes of medical supplies.
"Do you know how much work you saved us?" asked Shirley Rameses, one of the company's volunteer coordinators. UCC staff volunteered 40 man hours to tediously sort through piles of medical supplies. "It would have taken us the rest of the night to go through all this."
Volunteer work also took place as in the cities of UCC satellite offices -- Washington, D.C., and Whitakers, N.C.
The UCC D.C. office joined the morning worship and Storey's workshop via video conference. The Franklinton Center staff in North Carolina celebrated staff day at two sites: One was a community nonprofit, Concerned Citizens of Tillery, doing a mailing for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Leadership Summit; and the second at Inborden Elementary School reading to elementary students.
Live your faith. Love your community. The Faith,In Project, an initiative of the UCC National Headquarters, invites Christians from across the globe to loudly proclaim their faith and to live out that faith in their neighborhoods through mission and outreach. Join the 131 communities already involved, or learn more about the Faith,In Project.