Written by Barb Powell
They painted and picked and sorted and decorated, and a few dozen even shed blood.
Dozens of General Synod delegates ventured out into the California sunshine Saturday afternoon to serve the Long Beach area. Volunteers traveled in groups to two retirement communities, a village for homeless veterans, a faith-based food and clothing distribution center, and picked up trash on a local beach.
Almost 60 others stayed behind and donated blood for local medical needs.
The Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, UCC executive for volunteer ministries, says General Synod service projects are a symbol of the United Church of Christ in service to others, allowing the church and church people to show support for local agencies, and provide examples of what can happen back in visitors’ own communities.
“We’re not going to change the world in three hours, but we’ll be part of God changing the world,” she said.
Among the agencies receiving volunteers this afternoon was Bixby Knolls, a community of the UCC-related Retirement Housing Foundation (RHF). Erica Flesher expected an “awesome experience” as she prepared for a few hours of painting there along with others from her Naples, Fla., youth group. She and her youth group members do frequent service projects in and around their church as a way of “growing together” and being an example to “help our own community.”
For Jesse Timm of Ukiah, Calif., volunteering “puts people in touch with each other.” He was also going to an RHF facility, and hoped to learn a bit about the lives of the people who live and work there.
Which is exactly what Schaller Blaufuss wants. As the volunteers were assembling, she reminded them, “You are going to meet folks who do this every day.”
“Listen to them,” she advised. “See things in new ways. See God in new ways. And get ideas to encourage your congregation.”
As Grace Langteau was picking up trash along Alamitos Beach, she was also hoping to “improve the quality of the earth.” Her youth group from Appleton, Wis., are involved in a number of projects back home, including a warming shelter for homeless persons. Kelley Garigan is also active in service through her church in Allentown, Pa. As she was finding mostly plates and food wrappers along the beach, she was hoping to set an example for those who use the beach regularly to be a little more careful with trash. “It’s sad that people don’t take better care” of the beach, she said.
In the Long Beach Convention Center, almost 60 people registered to give blood to aid local blood banks.