This page is dedicated to telling the stories of the mission projects being done by the churches in this Presbytery. We want to share ideas, publicize and celebrate all the mission projects that the churches in the Presbytery perform. Please read below to see what we are doing in Christ’s name.
If you want to tell the Presbytery about a mission project at your church, please email Ralls Coston your information at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the name of the church, a description of the mission project and a contact person’s name.
If you want to suggest improvements to a mission idea, or ask other churches to help with your church’s project, please email Ralls Coston. We will connect your idea to the mission stories.
Now, let’s see what we are doing in Christ’s name:
Faith In Action Alabama
April 7, 2017
First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham has been committed to social justice issues for years. Approximately seven years ago, the church invited the PICO(People Improving Communities Through Organizing) organization to the church. PICO , website: piconetwork.org, is made up of affiliated non-profit organizations, mostly churches and schools. In Alabama, the affiliate is Faith In Action Alabama. In January, 2015, a Faith In Action hub was started at the church. Its founding convention is scheduled for April 21, 2017. Faith In Action Alabama is a state-wide organization that works with faith communities to confront and dismantle systemic racism, criminal justice reform, educational equity, and other issues . There are four hubs of Faith In Action in Alabama. They are located in Birmingham, Montgomery, Mobile and Huntsville. These hubs work with 60 faith communities in Alabama. The Executive Director of FIAA ‘s office is located at First Presbyterian. Last year, members of the church participated in a forum for the Jefferson County District Attorney candidates. This was to raise voter awareness about the role of the District Attorney’s office in the criminal justice system, systemic racism and issues of mass incarceration. FAIA is looking to do voter education work over the next six months.
First Presbyterian has supported FIAA by contributing office space and by giving a percentage of its church budget. Most recently, the church has given $3500 in its budget to FIAA. The congregation participates at monthly hub meetings and actions.
First Church also has a Sunday School class that studies social justice issues. Since the fall of 2016, the class has been studying the books “The New Jim Crow” and “Waking Up White.”
First Presbyterian is trying to live out its commitment to eliminate the root causes of poverty and injustice. Its slogan is to “ Reach out, speak up, and build bridges.”
A Christmas Pageant Auction
Edgewood Presbyterian Church-Birmingham
February 21, 2017
Every year, Edgewood Presbyterian puts on a Christmas pageant. The children dress up in costumes and reenact the Nativity story. There is special lighting in the sanctuary. Parents and grandparents of the children fill the sanctuary. Then the church decided to use this event to help with mission projects. Therefore, the idea came up to have a bake sale auction.
After the Christmas pageant, the congregation gathers in the fellowship hall. The auction begins with prayer, to remind the people of the auction’s purpose, which is to raise money to help others. The baked goods auctioned include breads, cakes and cookies. About 25-30 items are auctioned. An auctioneer leads the event. A good auctioneer has a strong voice and a sense of humor.
The first year of the bake sale auction, 2014, $2000 was raised. This money went to the Presbyterian Home for Children. In 2015, $4000 was raised. This money was sent to the Congo Partnership Team. Last year, 2016, $2500 was raised and sent to the Presbyterian Home for Children. The church has decided to give the money from the auction to an international project and a local project on alternating years.
The people at the auction get excited during the bidding. This of course helps to increase the bids. However, they are also reminded of the reason for this fundraiser, to help others. Also, it helps in raising the money to tie it to a specific project rather than a general need.
Sowing Seeds of Hope
First Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa
November 21, 2016
About six years ago, First Presbyterian-Tuscaloosa began a partnership in Perry County with a local non-profit, Sowing Seeds of Hope (website: sowingseedsofhope-pc.org, phone 334-683-6152). Sowing Seeds of Hope works at economic development, health screenings, and other projects. This is to lift Perry County out of poverty. First Church sends different groups, at different times of the year to help on projects in Perry County. For example, the Youth at First Presbyterian have gone to the community of Sprott in conduct a Vacation Bible School. There have been work days in the city of Marion to pressure wash sidewalks and to repair playgrounds.
A Mature Missions group from the church goes to Sowing Seeds of Hope before Thanksgiving to prepare food bags for the elderly in need. On the last trip, 227 bags of food consisting of stuffing, cranberry sauce, cake mix or pie filling, peas, corn, yams, and dried mashed potatoes were prepared. The number 227 was the goal because Sowing Seeds had sent a letter to the churches in Perry County, asking for the names of people 65 and over who were in need. The churches sent back 227 names. Some churches sent 9 names, some as few as 3. Members of the churches pick up the bags and deliver them to their members. Also, gift cards from the local grocery store are provided for the people to buy meat. This way, Sowing Seeds does not have to keep meat under refrigeration.
First Church became involved because a missionary returning from Kenya told the church that it needed to provide help in the Black Belt. A sub-committee of the Mission Committee, called the Perry County Mission committee, oversees this ministry and coordinates the various projects.
A Mardis Gras Party
Oakmont Presbyterian Church, Hoover
Nov. 18, 2016
Around ten years ago, the Mission Committee at Oakmont wanted to get involved with foreign missions, through the Presbytery. A fundraising event was begun. For the first couple of years the event was a social event in the spring, with an auction of donated items. Then the event was timed around Mardis Gras, because, if it was held later in the spring, it would conflict with the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
The money raised was to be used for very specific projects, not just a general fund. The Mission Committee decides where the raised funds will be sent. One year, the money went to buy mosquito netting and malaria vaccine for the Congo. Another year the money was split between the Heifer Project and a Peace Corps project. Last year (2015), the money raised was sent to the Congo Mission Team to help pay for the new school in Bupole. Remarkably, $5000 was raised.
The Mardis Gras party has food: gumbo or red beans and rice, King cake, and hot dogs. A band comprised of church members play Dixieland jazz, finishing with “When the Saints Go Marching In” as the children are wheeled through the fellowship hall on a decorated float. The kids throw candy to the congregation. Admission is $10 per adult, but the bulk of the money is raised by the auction of various items, such as sports memorabilia, jewelry (made by a church member), vacations in condos owned by members, cakes baked by members, bicycles and other sports equipment. There is also a silent auction for other items. An Oakmont member is the auctioneer.
The articles are obtained by 2 or 3 committee members who will unabashedly ask for stuff. A letter, signed by the minster, is sent to various stores, asking for food and prizes. Church members also donate items. Preparation for this party requires a lot of work. Members of the Mission Committee prepare the food, decorate the float and fellowship hall, and price the items for the beginning bids.
It is thought that people are more willing to give to a definite project rather than a general fund. And, it helps if they enjoy themselves while giving.
Partnering With a Neighborhood School
First Presbyterian Church Anniston
Nov. 16, 2016
Some seven to eight years ago 1st Presbyterian in Anniston embraced the initiative of adopting Tenth Street Elementary School as a neighborhood mission project. Over the course of these years members of our congregation have tutored many of these students in math, reading, science or wherever their need might be. We have opened our sanctuary, fellowship hall, classrooms or youth center that they may have the facility for activities needed to be housed away from the walls of the “schoolhouse.”
The Principal at 10th Street initiated an annual trip for fifth grade students to visit our nation’s capital. This was quite an undertaking as some 45-50 students usually participate. Most of these students are from low income families and do not have the resources to make the trip. Our congregation has held a number of fund raisers to make this trip a reality for these students. Bake sales, yard sales, BBQ dinners, sausage ‘n biscuit breakfast and out of pocket donations brought us to our feet to make these trips happen. Now with the resourcefulness of the school faculty they are managing their own fund raisers.
Not wanting to lose our connection as “Good Neighbors,” last fall (2015) we chose the Cahaba Environmental Center at Living River to become our outreach to the 5th grade students. The church raised the funds in the usual way with donations, bake sales, BBQ lunches, sausage ‘n biscuit breakfasts, and community supporters. For three days and two nights the students with their teachers experience the natural and cultural history of the Cahaba River through hands-on, inquiry based learning. For many it was their first time away from home as well as enjoying camping. The experience had so many positives that we are looking forward to once again sponsoring this outing hoping we can make a difference in the life of these youngsters.
Green Pond Presbyterian Church Community Outreach Projects
Green Pond Presbyterian Church
November 1, 2016
Green Pond Presbyterian Church is the “Little Church With the Big Heart”. We may be small in number, but we like to think that we make a difference in our community. Here is a sample of some of our community projects.
Several times in the last few years the Green Pond Presbyterian Church has provided dinner for the clients at First Light in Birmingham. There are usually between 80-100 people at the evening meal. First Light is a shelter in Birmingham that provides housing and meals for women and children in the Birmingham area. It is the only shelter in the area that caters only to women and children. We have also sent necessary supplies, like toiletries, cleaning supplies, easy to prepare foods, water, Easter items, Thanksgiving goodies and provided Christmas gifts for the women and children.
Green Pond Presbyterian Church has been vital in reaching out to low income children in our community with school supplies, new clothes for the start of the school year, and Christmas gifts.
Boyd’s School is a home for boys in our community that Green Pond Presbyterian Church has reached out to help in the last few years. We have provided Christmas treat bags, gifts and other snacks at various times during the year.
On the last Sunday in November, Green Pond Presbyterian sponsors a free community Advent Fair. Christmas craft demonstrations, refreshments and drawings are the highlight of the event. In addition, everyone gets to make a holiday craft to take home.
The church has also added additional community gathering during the year. The church has sponsored a watermelon and ice cream social and a soup supper, with all food being donated by church members and all community member welcome to come and enjoy.
One of the two new projects added last year was the decorating of a tree at the West Blocton Coke Ovens. They are in the process of trying to rebuild the coke oven park and had various community groups purchase trees to decorate. The trail was then lit up during the month of December and people were able to view the decorated trees at night.
The other new project was for the church members to spend a day at the Children’s Home in Talladega helping to decorate a cottage for the holidays.
Our church has also sent contributions to the “Living Waters” camp located on the Cahaba River.
Leeds Presbyterian Church
Sept. 21, 2016
For the past 10 years, Leeds Presbyterian Church has been operating a ministry of knitting. Once a week, 15 women get together at the church and knit. They make white dish cloths and tie the cloths into the shape of an angel. A piece of paper with a poem is wrapped in the cloth. The dish cloths are given to the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, where they are sold for $5 each at the Auxiliary’s Christmas bazaar. The women also knit baby blankets and pullover hats sale. Last year, the sale of these knitted goods brought $2600 to the Salvation Army.
The Leeds knitters also make blankets for the clients at First Light, a shelter for homeless women in Birmingham. Squares of cloth are knitted and then sewn together to make the blankets. These blankets are given to the First Light clients as they leave the shelter. The knitters provide their own materials. Also, some people have donated tubs of yarn. The knitting started when the Ruth & Naomi Project asked for prayer shawls. The Ruth & Naomi Project ministered to hospice patients. One lady at Leeds started knitting the shawls, and others came to knit. At times, the knitters also made chemo caps for people who were going through chemotherapy. Also, the group made preemie caps for preemie babies at UAB.
As the knitters meet and work, they bond with each other. Not all the knitters are from Leeds Presbyterian. Some are Baptist, Church of Christ, and Catholic. They talk and pray together. They even have an email list for prayer requests. As they minister to others, they also minister to themselves.
A Fish Fry
Bethel Presbyterian Church, Northport
Sept. 16, 2016
Bethel Presbyterian Church hosts the Gaddy’s Fish Fry in October. The profits from this fish fry are given to the Presbyterian Children’s Home in Talladega. The church has been doing this for about 12 years. Until last year, the proceeds from the fish fry were divided between gifts for the children and the Home. Last year, at the suggestion of the Home, the proceeds were used to distribute $100 to each mother at the Home, plus some money for the kids. Local merchants in the Talladega area had begun sponsoring the children, therefore the church’s contribution for gifts to the kids was not needed as much.
The church sells tickets for the fish fry. Around 500-600 tickets are sold, for $9 each. Half of the income is profit, which goes to the Children’s Home. The tickets are divided between the church membersl . A record is kept of tickets sales. Some non- members also sell the tickets. Advertising for the fish fry is mainly word of mouth. Bethel has been doing this for so long that people start asking when the fish fry will be. The church does advertise twice a year in the Tuscaloosa News, in the featured church section.
The men of the church use three deep fat fryers at the church’s back yard to fry the catfish, French fries, and hush puppies. Inside, the women of the church prepare the cole slaw, baked beans, and dessert. Approximately 20 members work on the fish fry. The catfish is fresh, they were swimming in the pond the morning before the fish fry.
This year, Gaddy’s Fish Fry is scheduled for Oct. 21, 2016, from 4-7 pm. Gaddy’s Fish Fry got its name because a long-time elder, Gaddy, was very good at selling tickets .After he passed, the fish fry was named in his honor. This ministry benefits the Children’s Home. And, the church members get the benefit of fellowship with each other and their neighbors.
Planned Giving and Unplanned Giving
Odenville Presbyterian Church
Sept. 14, 2016
Odenville Presbyterian Church budgets for much of its giving to various missions. This way, the church can write checks to its missions in an orderly way, and avoid going before the congregation for every charity. Some of the missions the church gives to are the Refuge Ministries and the Love Pantry. Both are food pantries in Pell City. The Love Pantry is a food pantry supported by several churches. Odenville church gave $500 last November. The church has been supporting the Love Pantry for over 25 years. Odenville Presbyterian also began giving to Refuge Ministries 6 years ago. The church gave $342 to Refuge this year, plus food collected by the church. Sometimes the church collects school supplies for Refuge Ministries, instead of food. Odenville decided to help Refuge Ministries because the Love Pantry only gives to an individual twice a year. Refuge Ministries does not limit an individual’s visits for help.
The church also gives $500 a year to the Presbyterian Children’s Home at Talladega. And, another $540 is given each year for birthday gifts for the children at the Home. The money is used to buy $20 Walmart gift cards for the kids. The parents and kids respond by sending thank you cards to the church. Odenville has been doing this ministry for over 20 years.
The above mission projects are placed in the church’s budget by the session. However, the church also gives to unplanned needs. One example is when a woman came into the church on a Sunday and asked to help in paying her utility bill. The church decided to help. The woman was asked to bring information about her bill. She did and the church paid $337 to the utility company. In another case, a woman lost her husband and home to a fire. This family was known to the church. Odenville gave $2000 to get a new manufactured home for the family. Other churches also gave to help the family. Finally, another local pastor came to Odenville Presbyterian asking for $200 to help pay for moving a manufactured home for another family. The pastor asked several churches in the area to contribute $200 each to help this family get their new home. Odenville Presbyterian gave its share.
Planning enables things to be done in an orderly way, but there has to be flexibility to minister to unexpected needs.
Mountain Brook Presbyterian, Birmingham
Aug. 30, 2016
Mountain Brook Presbyterian Church has operated a garden for the past six or eight years. Vegetables such as tomatoes, okra, cucumber, radishes, pole beans, watermelon, and squash have been grown in the garden over the years. Sometimes a fall garden is planted, with kale, collards and cabbage being grown. Not every plant grows and produces. This year the tomatoes and squash did not produce. But the cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes and pole beans are producing.
The garden was started by a couple who wanted a community garden, where people from the community would work in it. This did not happen. Now, the head of the church’s Mission Committee oversees the garden and does much of the work. The garden requires a daily commitment. It has to be planted and weeded. Also, when the plants begin to produce, the garden needs to be picked every day. The Mission Committee has money in its budget for the garden. Also, some members have left money for it in their wills.
The food the garden produces is taken to the Brother Bryan Mission. This is a mission for homeless men in the Birmingham area.
A garden requires a long-term commitment by people to work the garden, from soil preparation and planting in the spring, maintenance, weeding, daily harvesting and delivering the produce to Brother Bryan Mission. There are some intangible benefits to a garden. Many of the church’s programs have been connected to the garden. This includes Boy Scout projects, Vacation Bible School lessons, and activities for the pre-school children. Also, hands-on mission projects are useful in that they educate people in the hard work of helping others. Lastly, the garden is located next to a walking trail. Walkers speak to the garden workers. This provides one more connection point between the church and its community.
Operating a Day Care
New Trinity Presbyterian Church, Camden
Aug. 29, 2016
Since 1972, New Trinity Presbyterian Church has supported a day care at the church. The Elizabeth Harris Day Care is housed in a trailer behind the church. The church property behind the church, where the trailer is located, is fenced. Approximately 26 children are in the day care. Some are children of church members, most are not. Three teachers and one aide work at the day care. The day care provides two meals each day, breakfast and lunch. At present, the age of the children in the day care range from three weeks to 3 years. In the past, children up to age 5 were accepted, but now state-run pre- kindergarten takes them.
The children in the day care are taught Bible verses, coordination, colors, shapes, block building, phonics, and reading readiness. The teachers have been with the day care for a long time. One of the teachers’ mother, Elizabeth Harris, started the day care. Recruitment of students is done by word of mouth, letters to parents and announcements in the local news media.
The day care is non-profit. It is run by the Presbyterians of Wilcox County, an organization made up by Prairie, New Trinity, and the Day Care. A fee is charged for each student. If a child’s family cannot pay, the Department of Human Resources can help. New Trinity supports the day care by helping with fundraisers, such as having dinners, and having a king and queen of the day care contest. Also, the church helps with building maintenance, and, on occasion, paying the insurance. Once a year the kids participate in the church worship service, along with their parents.
The original purpose of this program has not changed. It is to help kids in the African-American community, giving them a head start and making them ready for public school. New Trinity also has tried to provide tutoring for school age students. However, providing transportation from the children’s homes to the church has been a problem.Still, the church continues to work to educate the children in Wilcox County.
Youth and Missions
Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church, McCalla
Aug. 19, 2016
The youth of Shepherd of the Valley Presbyterian Church are involved in serving others. Here are two of their mission projects.
Presbyterian Home for Children
As a congregation, we have loved the Presbyterian Home for Children through the years and this summer we were able to be a part of some very exciting times there. Some of our youth took a mission trip there to assist the Home with work in their new school building at Talladega First Presbyterian. We stayed overnight on campus so we could get a couple of good days of work completed. Together with an employee of The Home and a young man who lives there, we helped make this new area fresh and bright for when the kids start back to school. We also helped with the on-campus school by painting, packing up books and other items to get ready for cleaning and re-organizing before the new school year begins. What a blessing it was to watch our young people give of their summer and their air conditioning to the benefit of these children from The Presbyterian Home!
Operation Christmas Child
Our congregation has been involved with Operation Christmas Child Shoebox Gifts for over 10 years. We collect items for these boxes from April through September to pack up in October and ship out in November. Our youth have sponsored this for many years and help get our whole church family interested and focused on these small gifts that bring great hope to children in desperate situations. Once our boxes are filled and ready, our youth load up the shoeboxes and take them to our local OCC packing location and then assist the volunteers there as they prepare boxes from all over the area to be sent to Atlanta for global shipment. Some of our members have even gone to Atlanta to help in the preparations there with OCC.
Our congregation knows that what we may see as small, God is using in great ways. That little pack of paper or pencils, the washcloth or soap, a hairbrush of flashlight that we send may be the ray of light a scared or lonely child needs right at that moment.
Of course, it is not just the tangible item that makes a child smile; she or he also learns about the love of Jesus that brings eternal joy. They realize someone far away who does not know them wants to bring a great love to them that is life-changing. The stories are many, and, the blessings that come to us from these stories also. Serving Christ as we share in this ministry is one of the most beautiful times we have as a faith family!
Our Master’s Meals
Memorial Presbyterian Church, Montgomery
Aug. 17, 2016
Since 1986, Memorial Presbyterian Church has prepared meals for the Montgomery Area Council on Aging (MACOA). Memorial calls this mission project Our Master’s Meals. At the beginning, the church used five cooking teams every Friday to make a hot meal and a sandwich meal. In 1999, the church moved to its location on Bell Road. Our Master’s Meals transitioned to making frozen meals. The church kitchen has a walk-in freezer that can handle the volume of food prepared.
On the second and fourth Thursday s of a month volunteers cook the meals. The meals are frozen and picked up for distribution on Fridays. The meals are sent to MACOA which distributes the food to people who cannot prepare their meals. This is part of the Meals on Wheels program. The church prepares six different entrees for the meals. Between 100-150 meals are prepared every other week. About 90% of the food for the meals is bought from the local food bank. The church will buy the rest of the food needed.
Another project Memorial Presbyterian does is the Christmas Dinner. This started about seven years ago. Church members cook and serve a meal on Christmas Day for people who are alone on Christmas. The food is bought by the church. Last year 83 people came to the meal. Seven or eight turkeys were cooked for this meal, so no one went hungry. The purpose for this meal is to do something for others on Christmas Day, instead of thinking of oneself.
Presbyterian Community Ministry
First Presbyterian Church, Auburn
Aug. 8, 2016
In 1969, First Presbyterian Church of Auburn started the Presbyterian Community Ministry (PCM). PCM was conceived as a way concerned Christians could serve and assist the disadvantaged of Auburn and Lee County through interest-free loans for housing and emergency needs. At first, the PCM focused on housing improvement by helping with home repairs and new houses. Now, the primary activity of PCM is helping people to pay their utility bills and rent. This is done by awarding them interest-free loans or grants. The applicants are interviewed to check their eligibility. They are referred to other agencies if PCM cannot help them.
At present, PCM helps 400-450 families per year. PCM helps with a maximum of $250 for a utility bill, and a maximum of $400 for house payments. PCM asks for a repayment of 20% of a loan. Often, for someone of very low income, PCM will ask for a $10 a month payment. The rate of repayments for the loans is low. PCM’s policy is to not help someone who has not repaid their loan. Occasionally, someone in great need will receive a grant from PCM. The person cannot who receives a grant cannot get another grant for a year.
PCM still helps with home repairs. It receives government funds to do emergency repairs that will affect the structure and safety of a house. Also, PCM will help with other house repairs such as roof repairs, plumbing, and handicap ramps. PCM makes loans for these projects. Church members with skills in construction and architecture can help with the work. Often, PCM will get bids from companies and then choose a company to do a repair. In 2015, PCM helped with five home repair jobs.
PCM is governed by a Board of Directors. Not all the Board members are members of First Presbyterian. At least four of the Board members must be on First Presbyterian’s session. PCM raises part of its funds by selling memberships in PCM. Also, First Presbyterian also contributes to PCM. Other sources for money have included matching money from the Board of National Ministries, City of Auburn Community Development Block Grant funds, United Way, the First Baptist Church of Auburn, and Trinity Lutheran of Auburn. And, people make gifts of money to PCM.
PCM adapts to changing needs and to its changing resources of volunteers and funding while staying true to its mission of helping the poor.
Stop Hunger Now
Southminster Presbyterian Church, Birmingham
Aug. 3, 2016
One of Southminster Presbyterian Church’s mission projects is packing food packets for Stop Hunger Now. Stop Hunger Now, at stophungernow.org, is an organization dedicated to providing food and education to the poor. Established in 1998, it has provided over 225 million meals to the poor in 74 countries. Based in Raleigh, NC, it distributes meals through feeding programs operated by partner organizations that provide education. Providing meals encourages children to come to school, where they receive education that hopefully will break the cycle of poverty.
Southminster has participated in this ministry for the past three years by packing food packs. Each pack contains rice, beans, a soy protein mix, and a vitamin pack. Each food pack serves six. Each meal packed costs 29 cents. Southminster has operated a Day School for many years. The Day School and the church share the fundraising and the packing. This past year, First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham helped Southminster and the Day School in fundraising and packing. About 20,000 meals were packed this year. In the first two years of this project, Southminster and the Day School packed 10,000 meals each year. The meals are distributed to feeding centers worldwide. According to Stop Hunger Now, 40 people can pack 10,000 meals in two hours.
It takes $2900 to pay for 10,000 meals. Southminster does fundraising during November through February, with the food packing happening in March. The church does its fundraising by setting out collection jars at church events. The Day School raises its portion of the funds by having completion between the classrooms. A collection jar is placed in each classroom. The winning class got ice cream sundaes.
Southminster’s Outreach Ministry Unit oversees this project, which not only feeds the poor but educates our people about fighting hunger.
Building a STAIR
Independent Presbyterian Church, Birmingham
July 6, 2016
Independent Presbyterian Church helped start the STAIR (Start The Adventure In Reading) program in Birmingham in 2000. STAIR is a tutoring program for second grade students to help them in their reading skills. Approximately 60 students come to IPC twice a week for an hour of tutoring, a snack, and a short game (which helps them learn). Two volunteer tutors are assigned to each student. The same tutors stay with a student throughout the school year. Therefore, the student and the tutors bond with each other. The students come on either Mondays and Wednesdays, or Tuesdays and Thursdays. IPC focuses on students from the Kingston and North Avondale areas of Birmingham. The students are selected for the program based on their reading level. The students with the lowest levels are selected.
During the summer, the students are invited to IPC’s Fresh Air Farm. Students who are rising into the third grade through the fifth grade are invited to a six week camp at the Fresh Air Farm. About 80 kids attend. Every day, at 7:30, a church bus picks up the students at their community and takes them to the camp. The students are fed breakfast, spend the morning doing reading and math, then lunch and enrichment learning activities, such as swimming , water safety ( with Red Cross instructors), or following a cooking recipe (this helps with the math). The students are brought back to their community at 4:30. On Fridays, the students are taken on field trips, going to the zoo, the McWane Science Center, and Sloss Furnaces.
The students are tested at the beginning of the school year, the end to the school year, and the end of the camp. Most have gained 6 months in their reading levels. STAIR is able to give intensive one-on-one attention to the students.
After several years, STAIR became an independent non-profit organization. It has its own director. Its website is stairbirmingham.org. There are 11 other sites for the program around Birmingham. The IPC Foundation grants funds to the program. Other foundations also provide grants to STAIR.
There is always a need for volunteers at STAIR. Sixty students require 120 tutors, plus substitute tutors and volunteer snack servers. The curriculum is designed for lay instructors. STAIR trains the tutors. The two requirements for a tutor are a love of reading and a love for kids. Volunteers are also needed at the other STAIR sites. Volunteers come from IPC as well as other churches.
IPC also tries to help the students’ families with financial aid and other services as needed.
Building in Mexico
Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church, Birmingham
June 30, 2016
For decades, Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church has helped build houses in Mexico. The church started in 1989, building in Piedras Negra with Constructores Para Christos. Since 1997, Chapel members have been going to Reynosa, Mexico, working with Faith Ministry (faithministry.org). Faith Ministry’s office is in McAllen, Texas. It operates a clinic and two churches in Reynosa and Miguel Aleman. The clinic has a pharmacy, doctor, midwife, and visiting dentists. There is a feeding program in the clinic for new-born babies.
In years past, 20 church members usually made the trip to Mexico. In recent years, 4-5 members go. This year, one member drove a pickup full of medical supplies (gloves, compression socks, vitamins) and tools, while the others flew. The Chapel group stays for a week. It works with other church groups and Venture Scouts. Every year the church group builds a house. The houses are made of concrete blocks. Some Chapel members work in the clinic.
Chapel pays for the house it builds. A house costs $5500. Other groups pay for the volunteers’ food. Chapel raises its money by a yard sale, a tea party and by a bowling tournament. Also, church members donate. Some church members also donate medical supplies. This year the church members left a sewing machine, a power saw and other power equipment for Faith Ministry programs.
The volunteers stay at the clinic in Reynosa. Both the clinic and church compounds are walled and guarded. The volunteers buy their food in Texas. If they need more, Mexican workers will leave the compound and buy the items. Therefore the American volunteers feel safe.
Church members serve on this project not only by going to Mexico and building but also by supplying the money, tools and medical supplies necessary to help the sick and poor.
An Easter Egg Hunt
Second Presbyterian Church, Birmingham
June 30, 2016
Second Presbyterian Church decided this year to minister to its community by hosting an Easter egg hunt on the church grounds. The purpose was not to try to get people to leave their current churches but to minister to the kids in the community, and to show Second Presbyterian to people in the community. Church members met beforehand to fill the Easter eggs. Members cooked hot dogs and hamburgers. There were additional activities for the children and adults. The children, for example, did chalk sidewalk drawings. And, there was an egg toss competition for the adults.
The church also opened its doors for people to explore the church. Some asked questions about the church’s history and purpose. About 90 people came to the church for this event. Second Presbyterian intends to host another egg hunt next year, showing its care for the community.
Ascension Leadership Academy
First Presbyterian Church, Talladega
June 13, 2016
First Presbyterian Church of Talladega has partnered with the Presbyterian Children’s Home in starting a new school. The school is called Ascension Leadership Academy. It is starting with grades K-8. The Children’s Home continues to operate the Hope Academy on its campus. Ascension will be located at an unused education building at First Presbyterian. Ascension is designed for those students that desire to excel. The school is already accredited, with certified teachers. It is hoped that enrollment will reach to 50-100 students. Parents will be involved in their child’s learning, but it will be the students’ responsibility to achieve their learning.
Ascension will use the concept of clustered learning. There will be learning groups with different kids at varying learning levels. For example, a student who reads at the 5th grade level, yet his math learning is at the 2nd grade level, will be assigned reading classes at the 5th grade level and assigned math classes at the 2nd grade level until he catches up.
First Presbyterian and the Children’s Home did not begin talking about this project until August, 2015. The church voted to help fund this project in April, 2016. The education building had not been used for several years. There was roof damage, mold, and the air conditioning system needed work. The church made a major financial commitment to fix these problems. Also, the church wants to help with mentoring and tutoring the students. Children from the Children’s’ Home and adult volunteers from Edgewood Presbyterian have worked on painting and renovating the classrooms. The school will open in August, 2016.
Students for the school will come in part from the homeless children that are being housed with their mothers at the Children’s Home. The tuition will be free for these students. Ascension will also accept students from outside of the Children’s Home. These students will pay tuition. Ascension will be the only Christian private school in the Talladega area.
It is hoped that Presbyterians from the rest of the Presbytery will help with tutoring and other volunteer work.
Overseas and Next Door
First Presbyterian Church, Carbon Hill
May 31, 2016
Like many other churches, First Presbyterian Church of Carbon Hill contributes to and participates in several mission projects. Two of these projects have been going on for over eight years. The first project is the church’s involvement with Smile Train. Smile Train (smiletrain.org) is an international children’s charity organized to treat cleft lips and palates. It provides training, funding and resources to empower local doctors in over 85 developing countries to provide free cleft repair surgery and comprehensive cleft care in the doctors’ own communities. Smile Train has helped over one million children since 1999. Approximately $250 can help cover the cost of surgery per child. First Presbyterian, in eight years, has paid for the surgery expenses for over 100 children. The church raises its money at its children’s church, where the children give a dollar each. This also teaches the children about giving.
In addition to helping people overseas, First Presbyterian helps people locally. Church members provide transportation to members and non-members for medical purposes. They use their personal cars to drive people to their doctors. They carry these people as far as Birmingham or Hamilton, and bring them back home. Around fifteen people are helped per year. This project has been active for at least eight years. Knowledge of this service is spread by word of mouth. Carbon Hill is a small town of 1800 people so word of mouth is quite effective.
This is a good example of how a small church can support missions both locally and internationally.
Reaching Out to College Students
First Presbyterian Church, Livingston
May 18, 2016
The University of West Alabama is located in Livingston, across the street from First Presbyterian Church. The church has been trying to reach out to the college students. It has tried not to follow the model of meals and Bible studies. Rather, the church has tried a Faith & Film series on Sunday nights. Up to 10 people would watch a movie, share a meal, and discuss the themes in the movies. However, this program has stopped for now. The church also tried operating a coffee house in a building it owns. It was open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. The church would buy a vat of coffee for $10.50 and give free coffee to the students. The coffee house opened in October, 2015. It closed in the spring of 2016 due to low attendance. Now, the coffee shop provides coffee during final exams. Students came by and received their coffee and a card from the church. This has been more successful.
The church also has set up choir scholarships, beginning in September 2015, in which up to four students get $20 to attend the choir on Wednesday nights, and $25 to sing in the choir on Sundays. At present, three students participate in this program. The church recruits these participants by contact with UWA’s choir director and word of mouth on campus. The students fill out an application. A student can receive $720-$1440 into their campus account during the school year. This will help with their student expenses. This scholarship is intended to be a commitment by the students. The church raised $10,000 in seed money for this program, which will fund the program for three years. The money was raised by fundraisers, such as a Lenten Concert and a Shrove Tuesday pancake meal. Also the session voted to provide most of the money.
College students have been invited to go to the College Conference at Montreat. Only one has gone so far. The Conference is scheduled during the New Year season. The church also sent five students on a mission trip to New Orleans. The cost was $150 per student. This was defrayed in part by a quarterly grant of $400 from the Alabama Presbyterian Campus Ministry Association. Also, First Presbyterian-Tuscaloosa and Covenant-Tuscaloosa used their vans to transport the students.
The church at Livingston is trying to help the students see God in the world they are encountering. Not all of its efforts succeed, but it keeps trying.
The Donation Basket
Westminster Presbyterian Church, Tuskegee
May 11, 2016
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tuskegee gives to several mission projects. One of the projects is the donation of toiletry items to the Maxwell Alternative Residential Services in Tuskegee. Maxwell provides care for the mentally ill. The church has been doing this project for 5 years. Toiletry items, such as soap and shampoo, are collected by church members. The donations are brought to a basket in front of the church sanctuary. A church member takes the goods to Maxwell. Approximately 20 people are served by this donation. This mission project was started because of a brainstorming meeting to determine what the church could do for missions.
The donation basket also plays a part in the collection of Christmas baskets for the needy. Since 2012, church members go shopping and donate items for the needy. The items are placed in the donation basket in the sanctuary. Five families receive the items. A church member, travelling the community while doing her job, finds families that need help. These families receive the donations.
Also, the church yearly provides cupcakes for the Tutwiler prison Inmate Mothers’ Christmas Program. This is a party for the women inmates and their children. Fifteen women from the church either buy or bake two dozen cupcakes each. Church members deliver the cupcakes to the prison but do not stay for the party. The inmates may not know who donated the food. This service to the prisoners has been going on for 20 years.
A Food Pantry in Tuscaloosa
University Presbyterian Church
May 10, 2016
University Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa operates a food pantry. For many years the church gave food to people. Then, during 1999-2002, the food pantry began to be more organized and it grew. Now, food is distributed to an average of 250-300 households per month. The food pantry has been closed during the summer months, but this year it will stay open through the summer.
Food distribution is done on the second and fourth Tuesday of a month, from 1:30 to 3:30pm. Volunteers pack the food sacks on the first and third Thursdays. The amount of food placed in the food sacks depends of the size of the family receiving them. Each family receives one frozen meat item in its bag of food. The food pantry does not ask for income information from its clients. The clients are asked to bring their Social Security numbers or other identification. The pantry receives most of its food from the West Alabama Food Bank, which requires some documentation of the people served. The pantry’s membership in the Food Bank makes it possible to obtain a large amount of food for a very low cost.
The food pantry raises money through individual contributions, the Souper Bowl of Caring, Empty Bowls (where UA students of ceramics donate bowls), and a fundraiser meal at University Presbyterian’s fellowship hall. The food pantry sells scrip (gift) cards. The cards are purchased through a program in which part of the proceeds from use of the cards go to a charity, such as the food pantry.
Because of lack of room at University Presbyterian, the food storage and distribution is now at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa. Clients come to the church to receive their food. Many of the clients are elderly. Some bring their grandchildren. Some of the clients and their kids help pack the food sacks. An average of 30 volunteers work at the pantry per month. A University of Alabama employee helps to find volunteers on the UA campus. Some of these have been UA football players, which has been a thrill to the children of the clients.
People That Care
First Presbyterian Church, Wetumpka
April 28, 2016
In 1996, First Presbyterian Church of Wetumpka helped start People That Care. People That Care is an interfaith, crisis social service ministry. Its purpose is to help people in crisis to get back on their feet. PTC provides clothing, food and utility assistance. The ministry was originally designed to be an interfaith organization. First Presbyterian does not direct PTC, although its minister is on the board of directors.
Elmore County, where Wetumpka is located, has provided a building for PTC’s use. The City of Wetumpka provides sanitation and lawn care services for the property. And, the local power company donates electricity to the ministry. Local churches and individuals donate money, food and clothing. Volunteers at PTC come from local churches. At present, five churches provide volunteers that work on a weekly basis.
First Presbyterian budgets $2100 per year for PTC. PTC’s total budget for 2015 was $15,000. These resources provided to 6,572 people in 2015: $13,000 in financial assistance, 10,680 pounds of food, and 19,809 clothing-related items. Only residents of two zip codes were eligible for assistance from PTC. The two zip code areas had a combined population of 29,730 in 2010.
One remarkable fact about this project is the 20 years that several churches of different denominations have worked together to serve the poor, thus serving Christ.
First Presbyterian, Sylacauga
April 20, 2016
Care House is an interdenominational ministry located on First Presbyterian Church’s land in Sylacauga. It leases the building from the church for a dollar a year. Care House was formed in 1986. The building is next to First Presbyterian Church. Care House provides food and clothing for the needy. Care House requires their applicants to show documentation of their income, family size, and food stamps. About 30 churches pledge to the Care House. The churches also provide volunteers on a rotating basis, First Presbyterian providing volunteers every two months. The volunteers assemble sacks of food for the clients.
Also, Care House provides Christmas baskets for the clients. Care House sends requests to each church, asking for specific food items, such as green peas. Thus, there is less duplication of the food items donated. Then the volunteers at the House work as an assembly line to stock the baskets with turkey and other foods.
Care House is open Monday-Friday, from 9:00 to 12:00. It serves approximately 25-30 people per week. It has its own full-time director and Board of Directors.
Care House’s building is an old house, which needed roof repairs last year. Therefore, First Presbyterian hosted a benefit concert at the church. The sanctuary was packed with people, most from other churches. Enough money was donated to pay for a new roof. And so, First Presbyterian continued its long-standing commitment to the ministry at Care House.
The Open Table
Montevallo Presbyterian Church
Apr. 19, 2016
During the past academic year, 2015-2016, Montevallo Presbyterian Church has partnered with two other churches, First United Methodist of Montevallo and University Baptist, to serve a home-cooked lunch every Thursday to University of Montevallo students. The meals are served at the Montevallo Presbyterian Student Center, located a block from the campus. Each of the three churches involved take turns preparing and serving the meals. Mealtime is 11:30-1:00pm, every Thursday. The meals are free. Approximately 25-45 students drop in to eat and socialize. They are hosted by three to five volunteers.
At first, the purpose of this program was to provide hospitality to the students. However, it was found that some students struggle financially so they do not eat well every day. The Open Table provides them with a good meal, on Thursdays. To help students have enough food, the University of Montevallo’s Counseling Center operates a food pantry. This pantry is separate from the church’s program.
For the success of the Open Table, it has been critical that the three churches work together, all providing money and volunteers. Montevallo Presbyterian obtains its share of the needed expense money from member donations of food and money. Also, the Alabama Presbyterian Campus Ministry Board provides some money to the church.
Fearless Fire Drills
Springville Presbyterian Church
Apr. 19, 2016
Springville Presbyterian Church has partnered with St. Clair County schools this school year to provide training for pre-K and kindergarten students in participating in fire drills. Young children with special needs often have difficulty in properly responding to fire drills. The sounds and lights of fire alarms can be so frightening to a special needs child that the child shuts down or has a meltdown. Alabama schools are required to have fire drills, however, special needs children often cannot participate in the usual drills. Therefore, a private company, Skills for Success, has developed the Fearless Fire Drills to train the children to cope with and participate in school fire drills.
Springville Presbyterian has paid for most of the training subscriptions for the Fearless Fire Drills. All St. Clair County school system pre-K and kindergarten teachers, for all seven schools, will be trained at the church. There are 45 kindergarten teachers and 20 pre-K teachers involved. After the teachers provide the Fearless training to their students, Springville Presbyterian will provide a party at five of the schools, where certificates of training will be given to the students, as they enjoy cookies and cake. Two of the schools, Springville and Margaret, will have their party at the church.
Springville Presbyterian has raised the money for this project by fundraisers and members’ donations. After the training and parties, the church plans to get feedback from the teachers, to see how well this program has worked.
Men in Blue Shirts
Shades Valley Presbyterian
Apr. 19, 2016
A group of men at Shades Valley Presbyterian Church helps build houses every Friday. This group got started after the 2011 tornadoes in Alabama. At first, in 2011, the group cleared debris out of yards. Then they started working on Habitat for Humanity houses. There is a core group of seven workers. Between three and ten people come to work at the construction sites.
One member acts as coordinator. He goes to the Habitat website calendar and signs up online. Sometimes, Habitat for Humanity calls him. Habitat provides most of the tools. However, the coordinator also has some tools. The group prefers to work in the western area of Birmingham, in Pratt City, Ensley, and McDonald Chapel.
Usually, the group works on new construction, however, they also work on refurbishing existing houses. If they are not working at a Habitat house, they will work on other homes. The group does not work on rental houses.
If anyone wants to join this group, please call Shades Valley Presbyterian Church.
Collecting for First Light
Five Mile Presbyterian, Birmingham
March 31, 2016
One of Five Mile Presbyterian Church’s missions is to collect supplies for First Light. First Light is a shelter for homeless women and children. It is located in downtown Birmingham. It provides emergency shelter for homeless women and their children, permanent and transitional housing , individualized case management services, and various day programs.
Five Mile Presbyterian collects toiletries, shampoo, toothbrushes, clothing and other supplies for the women at the shelter. The church has been doing this for the past 5-7 years. The Presbyterian Women at Five Mile find out what is needed by First Light by First Light’s newsletter. Also, a member of the church knows a member of First Light’s Board of Directors. When the shelter’s needs are made known, church members go and get the supplies
Five Mile ‘s purpose in this program is to help provide shelter for abused women and children.
Installing Water Treatment Plants
First Presbyterian, Eufaula
March 30, 2016
Since 2007, First Presbyterian Church of Eufaula has installed small water treatment plants in the Dominican Republic. The church installs one treatment system each year. A crew of 6-8 church members travel to install and educate the local communities.
The church works with Living Waters for the World (livingwatersfortheworld.org). LWW is a ministry of the Synod of Living Waters of the PCUSA. LWW’s mission is: We teach people to empower local leaders to build and operate systems that provide clean water and health education to their communities. LWW operates Clean Water U, to train volunteers to lead teams, help local partners install and sustain the water systems, and to teach health, hygiene and spiritual education. Clean Water U has two locations: Oxford, MS and Oakhurst, CA. LWW does not drill wells or help provide other water sources. It provides water treatment systems to clean contaminated water sources.
Eufaula partners with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in the Dominican Republic. YWAM finds the communities that are willing to have a water treatment system, provides translation, and has a compound where the church team can be based. The church sends 6-8 people on an installation trip. Half of the team is experienced. The church does not want to send a team of completely inexperienced members. At least six church members have been to Clean Water U. Besides the installation trip to a specific community, church members make several other trips. On these trips, church members go to see if a particular community wants a water treatment system, then there is a covenant trip where the local community will agree to provide a building for the treatment system, provide workers and be trained for the maintenance and operation of the system. After the system has been installed for a year, church members will make a follow-up visit.
The church buys the water treatment systems. Members pay their own way on the trips to the Dominican Republic. The church raises money for this project by having a plant sale. Some members donate money as a memorial. The church also raises funds by letting people contribute for a particular component of the water system. Since the water systems only provide a limited amount of clean water, church members also educate the local communities on the use of the clean water for drinking and cooking, and the use of the contaminated water for laundry and other washing. Also, the members present Bible stories. YWAM can provide Bibles for the people.
Contaminated drinking water annually sickens millions of people worldwide. Installing water treatment systems is one way of combating this problem. First Presbyterian reports that the local medical missionaries say that the children are healthier, in the communities where the water systems have been installed.
The Sunday Club
South Highland Presbyterian Church, Birmingham
March 10, 2016
South Highland Presbyterian Church hosts the Sunday Club, every Sunday afternoon, except Christmas Day, at the church. The Sunday Club was started in 1987. At that time, many of the mentally ill in Birmingham lived in boarding homes in the city. These boarding homes did not provide meals for their residents on Sunday. Therefore, the session at South Highland voted to provide meals, a safe place to attend and the opportunity to socialize with other people. The Sunday Club meets every Sunday between 2:00 and 4:30 pm. An average of 40 meals are served each Sunday. The meals are served at 3:00pm. Volunteers from the church, other churches, and community groups prepare the meals, provide programs, tell a Bible story, sing, dance, and sit with the guests. The guests are given their own name badges. The guests themselves help with the program, passing out the name badges, singing, playing musical instruments and praying for the volunteers. The program is very structured, with the meals starting at 3:00, and afterwards, having the Bible story and up to 30 minutes of singing. People are discouraged from showing up just to eat and leave.
The church pays the costs of the Sunday Club. It is a line item in the church budget. However, some people do make a designated donation to the program. Some guests are homeless, some live in their own apartments, and many live in boarding homes. Volunteers use the church bus to take the guests to the church. Any one may volunteer. There is no special training. The Sunday Club does not offer counseling or treatment to the guests. The purpose of the Club is to provide a place for the guests to socialize and to have a good meal. Martha Foster, a church member, coordinates all the activities of Sunday Club. If a person or group wants to volunteer, please contact her at South Highland.
Sending Kids to Day Camp
Center Point Presbyterian Church
Mar. 2, 2016
Center Point Presbyterian Church raised $2500 to help send 4th graders from Erwin Elementary School to day camp at Living River in October, 2015. Approximately 200 students and chaperones went in four groups. Each group spent a day at Living River, learning about the environment, exploring the woods and looking for fossils in an old quarry. Lunch was provided. Buses transported the students from Center Point to Living River and back. The total cost of this project was $16,000. Southminster Presbyterian Church helped with the funding. Also, some grants were used. And, the parents of the students paid for the transportation.
Center Point Presbyterian had received an e-mail about camps at Living River. The church decided to help students at the local school. Two of the church members are teachers in Center Point. It was felt that the students did not have much experience in enjoying nature and learning about the environment. The church raised its part of the expenses by offerings from the congregation and from the church budget.
Two weeks after the day camps, members of the church visited with the teachers and students. They got very positive feedback. Center Point Presbyterian wants to do this project again. The next time they want to help with 2 day camps for 5th graders.
Hosting a Senior Center
First United Presbyterian- Forestdale
March 3, 2016
First United Presbyterian-Forestdale hosts a senior center at the church. The church has been hosting this for 15 years. This project was the brainchild of the then pastor, Rev. Clyde Carter, and some of the church members. The project grew out of a need for seniors to have some place to go and socialize with others. Many seniors were homebound, with no one to talk to. The senior center at the church provides a place for conversation, a light breakfast, games, outings, lunch, Bible study and daily devotions. The senior center is open Monday through Friday, from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Other activities include: health fairs, eye examinations by UAB Ophthalmology, stretching exercises, and educational programs on services offered for seniors.
An average of 25-30 people attend the senior center each day. Some of the seniors drive themselves to the Forestdale church. Others arrive by buses hired by Jefferson County. Buses also transport the seniors on their outings to restaurants, movies, and Trade Days at Tannehill State Park.
This project is a partnership between First United-Forestdale and the Jefferson County Council of Aging. The County also provides the food for a Meals on Wheels program at the church. Meals are taken to 15 people around the community, five days per week.
Church volunteers act as liaisons between the senior center and Jefferson County. Two or three church members work directly with the center. Another five volunteers (not all church members) do the Meals on Wheels deliveries. The church pays for its part of this ministry through donations by the volunteers and a portion of the church budget.
Covenant Dance Experience
Covenant Presbyterian Church, Tuscaloosa
Mar. 15, 2016
Covenant Presbyterian Church hosts the Covenant Dance Experience at the church. In this program, approximately 30 children learn to dance. This program has been going on for over 6 years. Three dance teachers, hired by the church, teach ballet, creative movement, jazz, hip-hop, and tap. The learners range in age from 3 years old to teenage. The classes occur three days a week, in the church’s building. Two rooms in the building have been converted into dance floors.
Officially, the church charges tuition to the students, if they can afford it. At present, all students are on scholarship, so the church pays the costs of the teachers and costumes. Some fund- raisers are done. The latest planned event is a Latino/American dinner on March 23. Also, the church’s alternative Christmas market has helped raise money.
On occasion, the dancers perform at the church. Also, there is a spring recital at the University of Alabama campus scheduled for May 7. The dance classes run each year from September to May. Many of the students are Latino. Others are African/American and Caucasian. To recruit students the church brought brochures about the dance class to the local elementary school. Many of the students come from this school. Covenant also advertised the classes on its Facebook page. Word of mouth in the community has brought in other students.
The purpose of this program is to bring people closer to Jesus through dance, using the arts of dance for worship.