Helping People in Need
By David Volz / November, December, 2011
In today's economy, many people are struggling to find food. It is a good thing that a number of local religious institutions are working to help these families and individuals. While the need is urgent on a year-round basis, it is particularly poignant during the holiday season.
First Church Coral Springs has a program to provide food to families on the first and third Friday of each month at 5:30 p.m.; anyone can come and receive a full bag of groceries. Members of the congregation bring non-perishable meats and canned goods to contribute to this effort. Publix also brings food for the cause.
"People receive produce, bread, frozen meat and canned goods," said Bernie Peterman, office manager for First Church. "We usually give away about 200 bags on a Friday night. More people are coming because of the recession."
Often families with young children will come. Also, many older people on Social Security will come because they are struggling to pay their basic expenses.
"We are commanded by God to go out and help those who are in need," said Peterman. "We started this a year ago. We began by giving out 50 bags and now we are up to 200 bags every time we distribute food. We think the number will increase."
First Church is partnering with South Florida Urban Ministries in Miami and will prepare about 500 Thanksgiving meals that will be delivered to people's homes. "We don't ask people questions," said Peterman. "We provide food to people who need it."
During the Thanksgiving season, Church by the Glades in Coral Springs has a program that asks families to help others in need. During services, people in the congregation are encouraged to take a box of food to neighbors or people they know who may be having a difficult time. The goal is to get people in the church to reach out and form relationships in the surrounding community.
"We are doing this to fulfill what the Bible has to say about taking care of the needy," said Pastor Scott Russell. "Jesus told us to take care of those in need. One of the basic needs is food and sustenance. This is truly where the rubber meets the road."
St. Andrew Catholic Church in Coral Springs has a large Thanksgiving dinner that isn't just for members of the congregation. Everyone in the community is invited, free of charge, according to Shelly Nicholl, the pastor's assistant.
On Thanksgiving Day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the dinner takes place in the St Andrew Parish Hall. Members of the Men's Club, the Boy Scouts and volunteers put on the dinner. Members of the parish buy and prepare the turkeys for the dinner. Also, the church provides Thanksgiving baskets for people in need.
"There is such a need and many people in the community are hungry," said Nicholl. "We have to take care of those people. We are always looking for volunteers."
Before Christmas, St. Andrew has a toy drive. People are encouraged to donate toys that are provided to needy children in the community.
Temple Beth Orr in Coral Springs has had a food closet for 25 years. When Rabbi Mark Gross arrived in the community in 1986, he asked the congregation to set up a food closet. On his 25th anniversary, the congregation named it the Rabbi Gross Food Closet.
"I ask people to bring a can of food," said Gross. "A couple of our members set up a cash fund, so we could always buy the staples like peanut butter and tuna fish. We have standing hours, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m."
The news is full of heartbreaking stories about home foreclosures, pet abandonment, and families having to decide between buying medicine and food. It is heartening to know that various houses of worship in our community are helping economically deprived people put meals on their tables during the holidays and beyond.
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