key was that we wanted to do something that wasn't going to be easy for our
congregation," said Larson. "We didn't want this to be a token
decided to provide Thanksgiving and Christmas meals for 11 area families in
need. Larson said he thought the goal – inspired by the UCC Mission:1 campaign
against hunger Nov. 1-11 – was within reach.
I thought it was pretty ambitious, too," he said with a light laugh.
with social-service agencies, 11 families were identified – from a single
elderly woman and elderly couples to a single young mother with five children –
and the church's plan is falling into place, said Larson.
providing short-term help with holiday meals, collecting turkeys for
Thanksgiving and hams for Christmas," said Larson, 12-year pastor at First
Congregational. "Our long-term goal is to partner with these families in
whatever way they're comfortable doing that.
Nicole Larson, Marcy Jackson and Heather Becthold stack food and household items gathered during Mission:1 on the altar rail at First Congregational UCC in Eldora, Iowa. (Photo provided)
like to work with them to help them solve the problems they're facing, so that
it's not a flash-in-the-pan kind of thing, where we make sure they have a meal
on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then never have communication with them
the food-raising approach has been the work of 11 "team captains" – members
of the church charged with networking beyond its walls. "One captain is a
schoolteacher at a local elementary school. She took our project to her school
and invited colleagues and students to help out.
did the same thing at their workplace, and a couple of captains put it on
Facebook," said Larson. "They received an incredible amount of
donations from Facebook friends who wanted to help."
said that many in his congregation have been surprised – as well as motivated –
to learn that hunger's grasp in Eldora (pop. 2,700) is as firm as it is.
of the elderly women in the group we're helping don't have enough money to buy
both food and medications. They've cooked all their lives, they know how to
prepare a turkey, but they can't afford it.
you have some of the other families, some of the younger ones – they don't know
how to cook a meal, and they don't have a pan to cook a turkey in."
and utensils are being provided as needed, said Larson. "For Christmas, we're
trying to find out which families may need something as simple as a crock pot."
As food donations for the families have poured in, they've
been placed in the sanctuary windows.
"When we consecrated everything (Nov. 13), we brought
them into the church and placed them in the altar area and had a blessing,"
"It's been really nice to watch to the donation pile
grow and grow."