From down the block to around the world, the United Church of Christ is already putting Mission:1 money to work.
The UCC has distributed ALL of the $183,000 designated for East African Famine Relief through partnerships with the ACT Alliance and Church World Service.
Of the $187,000 donated for Neighbors in Need hunger-related ministries, a portion of the Mission:1 money has been designated. Justice and Witness Ministries grants of $17,500 already have been awarded, primarily for food pantries, and as much as $75,000 may be awarded this spring in grants to applicants encouraged to apply after Mission:1.
The remaining $94,500 is being held in a special account for future grant cycles, said the Rev. Bentley de Bardelaben, executive for administration and communications in the UCC’s Justice and Witness Ministries.
"UCC partners in East Africa have expressed their deep gratitude for drought and famine relief shared through Mission:1," said Susan Sanders, UCC minister and team leader for Global Sharing of Resources for Wider Church Ministries.
The UCC has shared more than $220,000 in East Africa drought/famine relief –– $183,262 through Mission:1 and $36,738 via One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS). Combined with the $75,000 gifted to OGHS in 2011, the total given to East Africa is $295,000.
"This famine situation was years in the making," said Sanders. "A full recovery depends on so many factors –– humanitarian aid, political will, improving climate –– all coming together in a positive way."
UCC aid has included monthly rations of corn, beans, salt and cooking oil to more than 1,060 households; construction of sand dams; planting of 2,400 tree seedlings in Nzambani; seeds being provided to 2,700 households for maize, cowpeas, beans and sorghum; construction of four 6,000-liter water storage tanks for schools in Mwingi and Nzambani; and providing food, water and other emergency aid in Ethiopia, Somalia and Somali refugee camps in Kenya.
Sanders said that while the situation is improving somewhat in East Africa, early indicators signal an imminent food crisis in West Africa.
"Twelve million people across five West African countries teeter on the brink of famine. Drought, crop failure, inadequate recovery from previous crises and rising food prices have propelled the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Chad and Niger to declare states of emergency and call for international assistance," said Sanders.
Mission:1 funds for U.S. hunger-related ministries in as many as 25 local communities will be available in June, when the NIN grants are awarded. DeBardelaben said the approval process is underway.
"We’re not trying to spend it all out at one time," he said. "We will have another cycle of grants in the fall. If we still have funds left over in the fall, we’ll have another cycle in spring of 2013."
In addition to supporting NIN, Mission:1 funds also will be used to aid UCC-related Franklinton Center at Bricks, in Whitakers, N.C., said the Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.
"Mission:1 hunger action dollars will be used to provide seed money to launch the community garden at Franklinton Center and to leverage additional grant dollars to expand the project into a longer-term, sustainable agricultural garden," Jaramillo said.
Franklinton Center at Bricks is a conference, retreat and educational facility in eastern North Carolina with a focus on justice advocacy and leadership development.
Grant requests for hunger-related issues are received regularly, but "we just didn’t have special funds allocated toward that," said de Bardelaben. "Now that we do, we don’t have to pull from the other pool of money we utilize for Neighbors in Need grants to fulfill those particular requests."
"We’re hoping that the money will be there for a few years," he added. "We're not trying to spend it out."