A congregation in Maryland that decided it wanted to give back to others during this time of a pandemic is making an impact in its community every week, feeding health care workers on the front lines.
Grace United Church of Christ, using mission seed money and donations, set up “Frederick Gives Back” in early May after Trevor Addie-Carter, chair of the outreach ministry commission, read a news story about a program that was raising community funds to pay restaurants to feed the medical teams in big city emergency rooms and intensive care units.
“At the time, Frederick didn't have anything like that and, though we only have one hospital, it seemed like a great way to get involved with community outreach during the pandemic,” he said. “A few e-mails turned into a spirited discussion among the Church Council and things started to roll from there.”
The group ultimately decided to create a local outreach project of the church, to contract with local restaurants to prepare meals that members deliver. Since May 7, “Frederick Gives Back” has already made three large deliveries to workers at the Ballenger Creek Center, a long-term nursing and rehabilitation facility in Frederick.
“When we started delivering, the Center was the hardest hit nursing home in Frederick and it naturally became a facility where we wanted to focus our efforts. It's been a great starting point for the project because the Center leadership has been nothing but supportive.”
The group contracted with the 7th Street Cafe sandwich shop to prepare lunch for 85 healthcare workers at Center, the last three Thursdays. And Addie-Carter said they are just getting started.
“In10se BBQ (another local restaurant) will soon be providing lunch for 200 to 225 at Homewood at Crumland Farms, another local continuing care and retirement facility,” he said. “Each facility we've reached out to has reacted positively and has been very grateful for our support.
“Last week one of the nurses at Ballenger Creek Center, after taking the lunches into the facility, came back out to thank our team. One of the things she told us was that we have no idea how much our meal deliveries mean to her and the staff. The way she said it, and how truly genuine it was, spoke volumes. Honestly, we're happy that we're able to give back to the healthcare workers who are currently sacrificing so much. That's the whole purpose of our project!”
The ministry also provides a much-appreciated boost to local restaurants, many of them struggling with a new way of operating during the pandemic.
“The restaurants that we've made connections with have all been more than happy to see if we can make a partnership work,” Addie-Carter said. “7th Street Cafe was already accepting donations to deliver meals to Frederick Health Hospital, so our project was an extension of their outreach. Restaurateurs are more than happy to help however they can.”
Local community members are helping too, making donations to “Frederick Gives Back” through a restricted fund at Grace United Church of Christ, which is used to pay restaurant partners.
Grace UCC pastor, the Rev. Rob Apgar-Taylor, said donations from neighbors and hardworking volunteers are really making a difference in Frederick. “I see this as win-win to support those on the front lines and to keep local restaurants in business. I am the proudest pastor you have ever met right now!”
Addie-Carter has taken on managing “Frederick Gives Back.” When asked what’s next, he said the sky’s the limit.
“We're currently in a pandemic that has completely changed our way of life, both collectively on the societal level and in individual communities. It has also provided many new and innovative ways for us to connect and, most importantly, to give back to those in need and those who are sacrificing so much, two groups that we are urged to assist. From the neighbors who are working to sew masks, isolation gowns, and other PPE equipment for the local hospital to those who are going shopping so that their at-risk neighbors can stay safe at home to those donating food, medical supplies, and other household supplies, Frederick Gives Back has become one of many ways our community, both churched and non-churched are giving back. I can't think of better ways to be the Church.”