Open Outreach Meeting Report
Sunday, September 24, 2023
On Sunday, September 24th, parishioners gathered at Coffee Hour to hear what St. John’s Outreach has been doing this year and what’s on the horizon for this fall.
Gideon welcomed everyone and introduced Laura Swiggett, Chair of the Outreach Steering Committee. Laura spent a few minutes describing the mission of the St. John’s Outreach Program, noting that Outreach channels our collective resources in an organized and effective way as we seek and serve in the world beyond our doors.
Outreach supports local, national and international organizations that help people to help themselves. St. John’s contributes volunteers and donations to community partners working to prevent homelessness, provide affordable housing, lessen hunger, welcome refugees, provide educational opportunities and assist economically challenged families. We seek to foster caring and accountable relationships that serve and connect our community. One of our guiding principals is to use our funds where they can make a material difference, often filling gaps that might otherwise be unmet, especially for smaller, local organizations.
Laura described the Outreach Program as having 2 linked parts:
- Community Service
- Financial Support
- Spring and Fall Clothing Drives for Gerald J. Ryan Outreach Center in Wyandanch, providing clothing, underwear and socks for men, women and children in need.
- Christmas “Adopt-a-Family” Gift Drive for Youth and Family Counseling of Oyster Bay/East Norwich, providing needed clothing items for families from their personalized wish lists.
- Monthly “Blue Bag” food collections for the Community Food Council’s Huntington Station pantry, which serves over 200 families each week
- Participating in the St. Matthias School’s “Musicale” Fundraiser, celebrating Haitian culture while raising close to $10,000.
- Volunteering at the St. John’s Day Camp and help to prepare personalized “back to school” kits as gifts for each camper.
- Volunteering at Housing Help’s “Three Kings Day” food and gift distribution in Huntington Station.
- Volunteering at Community Solidarity’s weekly food share in Huntington Station, helping sort, pack and distribute food that would otherwise be thrown away by local retailers. Each week hundreds of families and individuals struggling to make ends meet stretch their budgets through the boxes of fresh groceries they receive.
2. FINANCIAL SUPPORT
Laura introduced Doug Arthur, a member of the Outreach Steering Committee, who gave the financial report (pinch-hitting for Outreach Treasurer, Frank Gundersen, who was unable to attend).
Doug presented a summary of 2023 Financial Grants. To date, Outreach has distributed $73,000 in program funding. He noted that the source of Outreach funds is the parishioners of St. John’s. During the very thorough St. John’s budget process that takes place from October to December, the Vestry allocates a specific amount to Outreach. In 2023, that amount was a generous $50,000. Additionally, a small amount comes in as independent contributions directed specifically to Outreach. The Vestry also allocates a budget of $16,000 for the Day Camp. The St. Matthias Fellowship does direct fundraising for their work, as St. Matthias School’s needs are greater than the budget can currently accommodate, which is supplemented by a $5,000 grant from the Outreach budget.
The Outreach Committee meets once a month to review grants, consider new requests and hear from Committee members about their visits and conversations in the field. Currently, we are making grants to about 18 organizations varying in size from $1,500 to $7,000. The Committee performs due diligence by reviewing 990’s and speaking regularly with each organizations’s leadership.
Three examples of the Outreach Steering Committee’s due diligence approach:
1. Youth and Family Counseling of Oyster Bay/East Norwich — On Oct 26th, five of us (including Gideon), organized by Mary Gay Townsend, will visit YFCA. In the past, we have supported their Parent-Child and Christmas “Adopt a Family” programs. During our visit, we will assess the effectiveness of their efforts and how St Johns can best assist.
2. Eastern Farm Workers – Warren Mazek and Frank Gundersen have visited EFW this year 4 times. EFW helps the very underserved migrant farm workers on the North Fork. EFW works effectively on a one-on-one basis to understand and respond to the specific issues of farm workers and their families. Further, we are in dialogue to assist EFW with obtaining legal help for the workers.
3. St George’s Food Pantry in Hempstead — This summer Doug visited the Church, which we have supported for some time. Twice a month, they serve 400 individuals via their food pantry. Doug met with the staff, looked at the facilities and gained a better understanding of what their budget is and how it is funded. He also learned it’s the 2nd oldest church on Long Island and once housed troops loyal to the British. Post visit he has stayed in touch with them and recommended to the committee that we continue to support the pantry at the current level of funding.
Doug also offered a few observations. He noted that there are differences, for sure between working in the business financial world and working with often, volunteer staffed charitable organization. First, it’s not always clear, at least at the outset, who the key personnel are running the various aspects of each program and making the key decisions. So this sometimes takes some due diligence. Second, the turnaround time on getting answers to questions raised can sometimes be a matter of weeks not days. Third, there can be unannounced turnover; therefore, one has to stay on top of things.
Doug concluded by saying that St. John’s Outreach due diligence reporting is very important in understanding the strengths and shortcomings of each of the organizations we support.
Laura said that today’s presentation would focus on St. John’s Day Camp and St. Matthias Fellowship, our two largest ministries, as measured in financial support and parishioner participation.
St. John’s Day Camp:
Laura reported for Day Camp Chair, Kerith Freidberg, who could not attend the meeting. She thanked Kerith for her dedication and many years of service to the Camp.
The St. John’s Day Camp is a 50+ year partnership with the Town of Huntington that provides fun and learning for young children from economically challenged families in our area. It provides a safe, structured summer program that fosters social skills and academic readiness. This summer the camp ran for 6 weeks at the Southdown School, which turned out to be a great venue, especially as it had air conditioning. We had 53 very active campers this year, 4 & 5 year old pre-schoolers and rising kindergartners.
Laura noted that she was struck by the fact that several of the counselors and camp leaders are alums of the Camp. They have said that St. John’s Day Camp has been life changing for them. As she showed pictures of the campers having fun at the year-end picnic, she mused that these smiling faces are the leaders of the future. Laura added a hearty thanks to our St. John’s volunteers. So many helped out this summer (something like 16 volunteers!) and shared their interests and talents with the children. She also reported that the kids LOVED the Back-to-School kits that parishioners donated, assembled and personalized for them. She concluded by thanking the congregation for supporting this amazing public/private partnership.
St. Matthias Fellowship:
Laura introduced Peter Charles, Co-Chair of the St. Matthias Fellowship, and thanked him and Co-Chair, Heather Spehr for their leadership.
Peter thanked the St. Matthias Committee for their amazing dedication and work. He shared that, despite very difficult circumstances in Haiti right now, St. Matthias School is opening on time and providing normalcy, hope and and an education for the children of Deslandes. Peter stressed that we are a lifeline for the school (it wouldn’t exist without us) and that Pere Michaud’s first words in every communication are “Thank you”. (Read on for a complete update in a separate article in this newsletter).
HOW CAN I HELP?
Laura invited parishioners who would like to become active in Outreach to consider one of the following:
- Serve on a committee
- Volunteer for community service opportunities
- Participate in food and clothing drives
- Help organize and support the St. Matthias fundraiser
- Offer your ideas and energy
Laura highlighted some of the upcoming Outreach events (see separate summary in this newsletter) and encouraged parishioners to mark their calendars.
She closed by thanking the St. John’s congregation, Vestry, Gideon, Mary Beth, ministry committees and chairs, and the Outreach Steering Committee for their support of and dedication to the Outreach program. It is truly a community effort.