Cub Scouts from Pack 188 collecting food at Village Market last winter. Photo: First Congregational UCC in South Haven, Mich.
Get to the bus, and bring enough to
That’s the Mission:1 mantra for at
least two UCC churches in Michigan and New Jersey.
"We're aiming for 5,555 food
items," said the Rev. Jeffrey Dick, pastor at First Congregational UCC in
South Haven, Mich. His congregants will join community members Nov. 5 to "Stuff
the Bus" with non-perishable food donations, toiletries, paper/household
products and diapers to aid in the UCC Mission:1 campaign against hunger.
a lot of excitement that we are doing this here, but also that we’re doing it
with a lot of churches across the country in unison," said Dick of the
event to run from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in front of the church building in South
Haven, about an hour’s drive south of Grand Rapids on the state’s western
had a food pantry in a nearby community that was closed, and the reality is
that we’re seeing a rise in the demand of the number of families coming in for
food," said Dick. "People are aware of the rising need and some
difficult times in the area."
Starting Nov. 1 and
running through Nov. 11, 2011, the Mission:1 goal is 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 also will ask its 5,300 congregations to
advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111 letters to Congress.
Led by the United Way of Van Buren
County, and with the cooperation of local school districts, donors will try to
stuff school buses with critically needed items.
"Our bus will be outside the
supermarket," said Dick, "and we’ll have Boy Scouts and lay members
of the church handing out lists of the items that are the most critically
"The shoppers will go in, buy
something from the list and bring it out to the bus.We’ve found that people are
very good at responding to specific needs," he said.
While First Congregational is the lone
official participant of the Mission:1 campaign, the joint effort will take
place at six other sites simultaneously. Dick said he expects the synergy to be
felt all over the county.
“We sponsor a Cub Scout pack and we are
home to a food pantry for our community. We’re also a feeder food pantry for
two small towns nearby us. So we often receive large supplies of food items and
share them with at least two or three other food pantries,” he said.
"And we've hosted the (annual
autumn) CROP Walk for almost 30 years," said Dick. "Our food pantry
is well known to volunteers who have served in it."
First Congregational UCC in Haworth
* * *
In New Jersey, members of First Congregational UCC in
Haworth will bring food on Nov. 5 to a bus for the fourth time – the second
time this year, according to Rev. Doug Stivison. "This event engages
almost all of the congregation – young old, regular church attenders and folks
we see only at Christmas and Easter."
"Our church moderator works for a local bus company, and he
came up with the idea two or three years ago,” said Stivison. "He thought
the idea of parking a huge (coach) bus in front of the church, with the luggage
compartments opened up would be very eye-catching."
The strategy works a little better with each stuffing, says
Stivison, noting that the spring event this year netted more than 260 grocery
bags full of food. "And people contributed several hundred dollars on top
Stivison said members of the two other churches in tiny
Haworth (pop. 3,200) – one Catholic, one combined Lutheran/Presbyterian – have
helped First Congregational with past bus-stuffings. Ditto for the two 12-step
programs that meet at the church. "For the last one, the guy who runs the
men's program gave us 10 or 12 bags full of food," said Stivison.