Written by Anthony Moujaes
The United Church of Christ's Neighbors in Need program had a record-breaking year in 2012, with the highest number of grant recipients and the most money distributed to congregations and hunger-related ministries than ever before.
Justice and Witness Ministries awarded a total of $254,300 in 2012 to 148 organizations, surpassing the disbursed amounts from 2010 and 2011 by more than $135,000.
"We are blessed to be able to assist NIN grant recipients because of the funds we receive from the generous donors who support the Neighbors in Need offering," said the Rev. Bentley de Bardelaben, program administrator and JWM's executive for administration and communications. "We know that hunger is something that happens in all of our communities. The Mission: 1 Campaign in the fall of 2011 rallied us as a community of faith to address it in multiple ways."
The Neighbors in Need program, which was one of the primary programs funded in part by Mission: 1 and also supported by the Council for American Indian Ministry, is now taking applications. This spring, another group of churches and other organization fighting hunger will be selected to receive up to $3,000 each. The deadlines for NIN grant applications are March 31 and Sept. 30 of each year.
Previously, Justice and Witness Ministries distributed $101,000 in 71 grants during 2011, and $118,500 in 79 grants during 2010.
"The money raised from Mission: 1 reflects the increase between 2010 and 2012. A substantial portion of the grants funded in 2012 provided assistance to direct service projects such as food pantries and feeding programs," de Bardaleben said.
"This past year was a testament of the support of our partners toward Neighbors in Need," said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, executive minister of JWM. "We're grateful for all the support and look forward to the work that all of the grant recipients will do in the future in their ministries."
Among the groups given grants last year are Miriam's Kitchen, resource center for the homeless in Washington, D.C. , the Cathedral of Hope congregation in Dallas, and Heroes for the Homeless, a food shelter in Seattle that recently completed its 100th outreach mission in its six years of service.
Miriam's Kitchen in Washington, D.C. has worked for nearly 30 years to end homelessness through its advocacy for permanent housing as a long-term solution, while offering short-term help through healthy meals and social services.
The shelter serves more than 3,500 homeless individuals annually, and in 2011 the kitchen served more than 70,000 meals. In addition to its work in serving meals, Miriam's Kitchen also offers case management to help guests with support services such as clean clothes, medical care, and assistance finding employment and housing.
Heroes for the Homeless has been helping the homeless in the Seattle area since December 2006 by distributing emergency and long-term food, hygiene products, and other supplies. The organization's goal is to help homeless individuals "maintain their dignity and independence."
The organization relies on volunteers and has operated since December 2006. In its six years of work, Heroes for the Homeless as served and distributed more than 49,000 meals, 26,000 cups of hot chocolate, 17,000 bottles of water, and 10,000 pairs of socks.
Through various grant and special offerings from members, the Cathedral of Hope (Dallas) has, for the last three years, upgraded its multimedia, using the latest technologies to "share our vision and mission across the state, the nation and to the world," said Cathedral of Hope pastor, the Rev. Jo Hudson.
"The Neighbors in Need grant has helped us to do that," Hudson said.