Big goal drives Florida UCC church in Mission:1 bid
Written by Jeff Woodard
October 4, 2011

Members of Pensacola Beach (Fla.) Community UCC - (l-to-r) Danny Stults, Tom Fitzgerald, Randy Jo McKenzie, Steve Speirs, Scott Neal and the Rev. Tom Garrison - gather around the church's Mission:1 collection display. (Photo provided)

It's second nature for Scott Neal to "do the math." He is, after all, an accountant.

When he heard about the UCC’s Mission:1 campaign to take a bite out of hunger, he started thinking about what his Pensacola Beach (Fla.)Community UCC could do to help.

Then he did some BIG math.

“We were at a Board of Directors meeting, and we talked about trying to collect one ton of food," said Neal. "That sounds like a lot – but then I said, ‘If we are going to go for one ton, let's go for something big. Let's make it 11 tons.’”

Making his pitch for board members to consider the highly ambitious goal, Neal set aside the doodling he'd been doing on his notepad long enough to do some longhand division. The result dropped his jaw.

"I divided 22,000 pounds (11 tons) by our 197 church members, and lo and behold, the number came out to 111 pounds per person. Isn't that crazy? I said, ‘That's got to be the number that we go after.’”

The "one"-ness fits in perfectly with Mission:1. From Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11 to 11-11-11), the UCC goal will be to collect more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, as well as $111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in online donations for East Africa famine relief. The UCC will also ask its 5,300 congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress.

Because of the scope of the Pensacola church’s goal, members set the campaign in motion early, on Sept. 18.

“We’re only going to get this goal if we start partnering with people," said Neal. "We have commitments from the Pensacola Beach Women's Club, who will do a food drive, and we’re also teaming up with the Pensacola and Gulf Breeze (Fla.) Optimist International groups."

Grocery stores and social groups are also pitching in, as are students at Pensacola Beach Elementary School, said Neal. "Notes will go out to parents, and on a designated day canned foods will be picked up. There are 250 children at the school, so a couple of cans each will add up."

Church deacons have formed committees to oversee partnering, marketing, logistics and management. Coverage via local newspapers and radio stations is being arranged.

Neal estimates that 11 tons of food will fill half of the 18-wheel tractor-trailer they’re using.

"We'll have the trailer in the church parking lot with some banners up as a constant reminder,” said Neal. “We are also teaming up with the local fire department; they'll provide a 24/7 drop point for food pick-ups. We just don't have the manpower to man the trailer for drop-offs around the clock."\

The five local food banks and family-service organizations to benefit from the 11-ton push will be Manna Food Pantries, Interface Ministries, Loaves and Fishes, Waterfront Missions for Men and Waterfront Missions for Women

"Most of them also have kitchens," said Neal. "We let people know that they can buy bulk, and that the kitchens will be able to handle that.

"The food banks are very excited about the possibilities of the food drive and have informed us of the types of food items they need.

"Now it’s just pedal to the metal and keeping it going,” said Neal.

For more information on Mission:1 and how your church can participate, please visit <ucc.org/mission1>.

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