Wisconsin congregation and neighbors raise relief money for Puerto Rico
A small community in Southwest Wisconsin rallied around its local United Church of Christ congregation on Friday evening, and helped raise more than $3,300 for hurricane recovery in Puerto Rico.
“Our congregation has been deeply troubled by the narrative of our nation lately,” said the Rev. Zayna Thomley, pastor of First Congregational UCC, Platteville, Wi. “We’ve also begun to recognize that our planet seems to be groaning under the weight of our abuse and neglect. As news of natural disasters grew, our desire to respond in love and hope also grew. I was really touched by our leadership’s desire to reach out to the wider community and encourage them to recognize the island of Puerto Rico as their neighbors. It seemed like a natural thing to do.”
So the congregation turned an evening of planned family friendly fellowship on Oct. 6 — roasting marshmallows over a fire in the parking lot and singing old church camp songs — into a fundraiser for the people of Puerto Rico. And as the news reported out of the U.S. commonwealth became more devastating, several members of the wider community joined in to help.
“We had 5 business partners step up in a matter of three days,” Thomley said. “Artists, a coffee shop, a barber, the organic market. We have an amazing Main Street community and our congregation is lucky to be located right in the midst of it.”
“The organic market in town donated food,” she continued. “A local Puerto Rican woman with family still living on the island dropped off a couple of authentic Puerto Rican dishes. Her brother, a caricature artist, signed up to do portraits. The local coffee shop made hot chocolate. The barber next door offered to do haircuts and shaves with all proceeds being donated. We have an astronomy professor in the congregation who offered to bring her telescopes for a night of stargazing. Everyone volunteered whatever talents or resources they could.”
Only the weather did not cooperate, so the church had to move everything indoors. Participants roasted marshmallows over Sterno cans, and the telescopes stayed home. But Thomley said the more than 50 people in the community who came out made it a successful evening.
This fundraiser, which is sending $3,347 to Disaster Ministries, is the second First Congregational has hosted this season. On Sept. 3, several women in the church came together to serve a last minute brunch after worship, raising well over $1,000 donated to relief in Texas after Hurricane Harvey.
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