What Do You Know About St. Paul’s Outreach?

What do You Know About St. Paul’s Outreach?

By Joan Doggrell

Before talking to Crystal McCollough, I knew very little about St. Paul’s Outreach program. I knew that Outreach was responsible for disbursing funds to deserving recipients. But I thought the Outreach committee was a single entity headed by a Chair and the usual officers. How wrong I was. That may have been its previous structure, but not anymore.

And why was I talking to Crystal? Because she is Chair for the Community Grants Ministry. More about that shortly. But first, a bit about Crystal. She runs a small business from home, Beautycounter, “a clean beauty brand for men, women, & children.” She is married to Micah McCollough, and they have five children: Ariel, thirteen; Micah Jr, eleven; Eli, nine; Aaron, seven; and Samuel, two.

“And Joey (the Golden Doodle puppy) makes six!” said Crystal. “It’s like having toddler twins when Sammy and Joey are in the house together. One’s running this way, the other’s running that way… It would be easier if they were one species – they would both either sit and color or they’d both play Fetch!”

It’s easy to see she has her hands full. Nevertheless, “I’ve always enjoyed being a servant,” she said. “Father Allan pulled me out of the pew with my newborn Aaron and told me I needed to join the Committee. And I’ve been here ever since.”

Today, Outreach consists of four permanent ministries: Community Grants, The Work of our Hands. Stories of Grace, and Monthly Mission Market. As Christmas approaches, a fifth ministry, Angel Tree, goes to work.

And who is in charge of all these ministries? Why, our own Hazel, of course.

The Community Grants ministry is “tasked with receiving grant applications and voting on whether or not to grant those funds,” said Crystal.

According to St. Paul’s website:

“St. Paul’s makes grants to nonprofit programs that provide basic needs to the most vulnerable of our neighbors. In addition to small grants (typically $2,500 or less), the Community Grants Ministry provides funds to organizations with local or regional affiliation, especially organizations with an Episcopal affiliation, organizations founded by St. Paul’s Episcopal Church or organizations impacted by significant parishioner participation.”

This ministry has been busy this year. Here are the organizations who have received grants to date.

CORRAL, $2,500, to the equine therapy folks. According to their website, “We collaborate with local, referral community partners who identify our at-risk girls and then we pair them with rescued horses.” Check out their website at https://corralriding.org/. They have inspiring stories to tell.

I-58 Mission. “This organization is in Senoia,” said Crystal. “We gave them a grant of $7500. They are like One Roof and Bridging the Gap, only on the other side of the Interstate. That’s a whole community that is part of Coweta County, that we have never touched. They were new the first time we heard about them. We have kept an eye on them, and they’ve grown exponentially. They are doing some wonderful things in their community. We’re really excited to help them out this year.”  https://thei58mission.org/

Kairos, $750, the St. Paul’s prison ministry led by Bill Harrison. The Kairos website says, “By sharing the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, Kairos hopes to change hearts, transform lives and impact the world.” http://www.kairosprisonministry.org

“…I was in prison, and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 25:36)

Coweta Samaritan Clinic, $2,500. Our own Lou Graner played a major role in getting this health care facility started and served as its Executive Director for almost eight years. The clinic serves uninsured Coweta County residents with limited incomes. https://www.cowetasamaritanclinic.org/

One Roof. “We have a special relationship with them,” said Crystal. “St. Paul’s started the Food Pantry right here in our building. So we have always had a vested interest in One Roof’s success. We do a quarterly grant to them of $2000.”  https://oneroofoutreach.org/

“One Roof recently opened a new facility they call The Lodge. When asked to help with that project, we said we would see how we could get other congregations involved to help sustain this. Luckily, they got a large amount of support from some of the downtown churches, so now they are open. We helped support them with a grant of $6,000.”

“The Lodge will house two families at a time for thirty days –  women and children coming from homeless  situations. The Lodge is a sub-program under the One Roof umbrella, headed by Frankie Hardin. One Roof covers the food pantry, the thrift store, and now The Lodge.”

“So that is how we dispersed our money for this year,” added Crystal. “We still have a good bit yet. We are waiting to see what Angel Tree comes out at. And we may have more grant applications.”

The Work of our Hands ministry, chaired by Joshua Wieda, identifies ways parishioners can go beyond writing a check. The ministry encourages hands-on participation.

According to Crystal, St. Paul’s participated in Bridging the Gap earlier this year, and Backpack Buddies is happening in October. A couple days of the week, Bridging the Gap provides a hot meal and food distribution. St. Paul’s volunteers provided a hot breakfast on March 9 of this year, during Lent.

“We had over thirty show up to help serve breakfast, with casseroles in hand, some gluten free – we were very conscious of that. There was also a set of volunteers in the warehouse who were dispersing the food. But we were there to give that touch, Hazel was on hand to give a sermon, and the Children’s Choir was there. I was really pleased to see that turnout,” said Crystal.

Their next project will be Backpack Buddies. “This is an organization that sends underprivileged children home with easy-to-heat and eat food,” said Crystal. “We have a large population of children who are on free or reduced-cost lunch. Backpack Buddies discreetly packs bags with canned ravioli, Ramen noodles, peanut butter crackers, anything children and their families can easily heat so they can have a nice meal over the weekend. The only place these children get a hot meal is at school.”

The school identifies the children who need food, typically from the list of those getting free or reduced-cost lunches or whom teachers recognize because they’re hungry.

I had to ask: “Don’t their families get welfare and Food Stamps? Why are so many children hungry?”

Crystal did not attempt to explain. Wisely, she simply helps to supply an obvious need. “It’s just the way things are,” she said. “A lot of hungry children are in Coweta County, and the only way they eat is when they are at school. So Backpack Buddies exists to meet that need. This ministry also provides food over school breaks. For example, for Thanksgiving break, they get a larger bag of food. Parents are encouraged to come to the school to pick up these bags.”

St. Paul’s volunteers will be packing bags on Tuesday evening, October 15. On Thursday and Friday, volunteers will take them to the schools for distribution.

“I toted bags for awhile,” said Crystal. “But then when I had Samuel, I couldn’t carry the bags and him too!”

“Arranging for people to come out for those bags is really big,” said Crystal. “Backpack Buddies gets a lot of donations. People just go to BJs and get big pallets of ravioli, chili, and things of that nature to be able to send the babies home with something.”

“I really love Backpack Buddies,” she adds. “The woman who started it has this big, beautiful heart – she’s the owner of the Senoia Coffee Shop. She just saw a need, and went for it, and by the Grace of God, she has had people constantly donating food and money and a constant stream of volunteers to pack up these bags.”

The Monthly Mission Market ministry (MMM) offers opportunities for all parishioners to “assist local nonprofit programs with in-kind gifts by bringing in needed items and placing them in MMM’s shopping cart.”

“We decided on our Monthly Mission Market activities at our first meeting of the year,” said Crystal.

These are the organizations St. Paul’s MMM currently supports with parishioner-donated supplies:

  • The Coweta County Food Pantry. Several times throughout the year we request parishioner donations. “I think with the surplus of food we have in this country there is no reason for people to be hungry,” said Crystal.
  • Meals on Wheels. Foods such as fruit cups and juices are requested.
  • Animal shelter supplies.

  • Drive for Backpack Buddies. None was conducted this year.
  • The Boys and Girls Club. This year, after-school supplies were donated to Ruth Hill.
  • Ansley House. According to their website, it’s “a school for children of families who have experienced homelessness in Atlanta.” “It’s a safe place for them to go and get some education,” explained Crystal. “It’s part of the Episcopal church – St. Luke’s donates the space. Hazel and Jane Murdock learned about it at Diocesan Convention. The school doesn’t have a lot of space to store collections, so we ended up giving them a $500 donation.”
  • The I-58 mission or One Roof in December “depending on who has the greatest need for cold weather gear,” said Crystal. “We were able to split those donations last year so both would have coats to hand out, for free, to those who needed them.”

  • School Necessities in January, which is “geared more towards teachers because by that time of year they’ve run out of their tissues, hand sanitizer, etc. The plan is to be able to replenish those supplies.”

The Stories of Grace ministry, chaired by Mark Bulford, is tasked with telling “the stories of how St. Paul’s is serving Jesus in our community and will broadcast the stories as appropriate via news media, social media, the blog, and The Lamp.”

According to Crystal, “This ministry is supposed to be a way of sharing what Outreach is up to. But we’re having trouble with that.”

Anyone want to volunteer to make sure such information gets in The Lamp, on St. Paul’s website, and in the Blog?  Just raise your hand.

The Angel Tree ministry, chaired by Carrie Wendelburg, functions seasonally. During Advent, the Angel Tree is placed in the Narthex and covered in tags describing Christmas list items for needy individuals and families. Parishioners are invited to take a tag and return the unwrapped item to the collection basket in the Parish Hall. The Angel Tree team uses the items to create a display of generosity in the Parish Hall until the items are distributed.

“Names of deserving persons those who would have a barren Christmas otherwise come from DFCS,” explained Crystal. “Then it’s a matter of making sure each child and needy adult has a slip, then sorting through and making sure nothing was left off.”

“Last year we did pick up several bicycles,” added Crystal. “We weren’t given as many bikes as were requested, so we picked some up with Outreach funds. We signed up to provide these gifts, so we need to take care to do so.”

“Carrie Wendelburg is getting ready to start the Angel Tree project this year, so she will need volunteers to help with that. It’s a lot of work, and Alise, her daughter, is off to college now, so Carrie will need some extra hands.  Hopefully she will be asking for committee members soon to get Angel Tree up and running.”

Outreach Needs Help!

Crystal’s concluding remarks:

“Volunteering to serve in each of these outreach ministries gives meaning to why we do what we do outside the walls of our church. Now that our committee is split into subcommittees, we don’t have as much participation as we did previously. We are looking for new members. We would like more people for Work of Our Hands and Stories of Grace. Stories of Grace is supposed to be a committee to highlight the goings-on at Outreach as well as let the Church know about other volunteer and service opportunities that they don’t necessarily need to do through the Church.

“Last year we did the agricultural initiative in Haiti. We talked about it a bit, but I feel there was so much more we could have done. I think people would want to know that in Haiti we helped plant a crop of trees so recipients could be sustainable farmers and grow and sell their own crops and make a better life for their families. We have a relationship with these families, but we don’t talk about it.”

The following write-up appeared a newsletter from Bethlehem Ministries, the organization working with Father Bruno in Haiti.

One of the lucky families high in the mountains got help from some Bethlehem Ministry families to plant trees and crops on their steep land.

A year and a half ago some families at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Newnan, Georgia and at First Presbyterian in Athens changed the life trajectory of some Haitian families by giving them the resources to plant their steep land with agro-forests. With that jump start, those families scored. Tree and crop cover are up, erosion is down, and optimism for their kids’ future is growing, all of which has given us the confidence to expand the idea to other communities – four of them in fact. The goals remain the same – help the land produce more, protect it for the future, and build household income using new cropping techniques and equipment to make value-added commodities. Juice from guava fruit, roof rafters from eucalyptus trees, bread from manioc roots, soap from Jatrofa seeds – there are so many plant-based possibilities because Haiti is in the tropics. When farm communities can tap those possibilities, their economy improves. Bethlehem Ministry is helping them do that. Thank you all. JP’s new project, called Land and Livelihood Transformation on Steep Land, is a three-year project focused on 500 participants and beneficiaries with economic benefits reaching many more. It is ambitious, but on the strength of the St. Paul’s /First Presbyterian trial balloons, we know we can pull it off. One of the lessons I learned watching Pere Bruno build St. Barthélémy from a dream and an empty lot is, stick with it even if you don’t have everything in hand.

Rob Fisher

Director, Partner for People and Place

“I feel we have a lot of people who want to do good things but don’t know where to get started. I think it’s the job of the Outreach committee to let people know what’s available,” said Crystal. “I’m not going to be the Chair next year, so I’m looking for some more people to help out.

“People see our budget come up on the Annual Report. But how are we spending the money? I think we ought to be held accountable by sharing that information. And I want to brag on the goodness of St. Paul’s.

“My grand vision is to see forty or fifty parishioners out there with “Work of Our Hands” on the back of their shirts. Just out there doing good things.”

 

 

 

Lou Graner: Good Samaritan

By Joan Doggrell

He retired in March of 2019, but for almost eight years, Lou Graner was the Executive Director of Coweta County’s Samaritan Clinic. Moreover, he played an essential role in the planning and financing of this life-saving facility. The Coweta Samaritan Clinic offers free primary medical care to uninsured Coweta County residents with limited incomes.

“Just in the time I was there, we treated about 1,600 people and had crossed the 20,000-patient visit level,” said Lou. “A tremendous amount of good is being done.”

I wanted to know more about this modest man who had played a vital role in launching and operating the Samaritan Clinic.

Joan: Lou, what led you to be one of the movers and shakers who started the Samaritan Clinic?

Lou: My involvement comes right back here to St. Paul’s. One day ten or so years ago, I was meeting with Bill Harrison. We were just chatting about poverty and different things. Sharon Gruber was the volunteer at the desk. She was good friends with Kay Crosby and the others who were thinking about starting the clinic. She heard us talking and just ducked her head in and asked, “Do you have any interest in coming to a meeting and looking at what we are thinking about?” I said, “Sure.” So it really started right here in St. Paul’s, or I might not have known about it.

Joan: Something inside you must have felt drawn to this meeting. Can you express what that was?

Lou: When this opportunity presented itself, I was between jobs. I had been in the non-profit world for about fifteen years. The one thing I had never done was anything in this community, and this was something I really wanted to do. I’ve always been interested in dealing with poverty and the people who truly don’t have any breaks.

I had done fund-raising for the Scottish Rite Children’s Medical Center, which is part of Children’s Health Care now. I had also worked at the Atlanta Union Mission, which is an emergency shelter and addiction recovery center for men and women. That was the area of non-profit work that really spoke to me, which I found most fulfilling.

So obviously what was being contemplated here was very interesting. I just rode the coattails of an awful lot of people. People of this community are extraordinarily generous with their time and with their resources: Dr. Kay Crosby, for example, who volunteers her services, had been an internist for twenty years at PAPP Clinic, and so she was very well known and respected. I think to this day that she continues to drive that support. She is still there.

Joan: Tell me more about your role.

Lou: I had some small role in it, but it’s really the generosity of the community and the way things have come together. I’ve never been in a place where the hand of God was so evident. Just for the facility itself – some of the places we were looking at would have been much more expensive and would have proven to be too small almost immediately. When the Health Department moved from the building where the clinic is to Hospital Road, the County took over the building, did a little rehabilitation work on the HVAC system, and leased 9000 square feet to us for a dollar a year.

Joan: Are there other examples of the hand of God at work?

Lou: There were many. For instance, one day Peggie (our nurse/administrator) commented, “You know, we could really use another blood pressure machine.” It wasn’t two days later when somebody from Welch-Allyn knocked on the front door. This guy is holding a stand with a blood pressure machine. He says, “We have an extra one. It’s from one of our clients. Could you use it here?” That’s not an exception. It was more the rule.

We like to say the Samaritan Clinic is Coweta County citizens caring for their neighbors. All the doctors volunteer their time. None of them are getting paid; only some of the medical staff, such as nurses and physician’s assistants.

I feel really good about what’s been accomplished. It was such a rewarding experience to be part of it.

Joan: What made it so rewarding?

Lou: Instead of fund-raising and writing checks as a donor, it’s kind of like – well, how do I get my hands dirty on the front line? So that was my evolution – to move into the direct provision of service and to use my accounting and financial background to benefit that organization. Anybody who has done service comes to realize you get so much more out of it than you put in. That was true for me.

Every employee, at least during the time I was there, started as a volunteer. We always thought that was really cool. We would say, what are the most important qualities, and who has passion for the mission? Everybody at the clinic had chosen to be there as a volunteer, so ultimately when the position was needed, these were the people best qualified for it.

Joan: What exactly was your position?

Lou: Executive Director. I was in charge of all the fund raising, community relations, accounting, and budgeting. There were nine employees when I left: three full time and six part time.

Joan: Your pride and satisfaction in your contribution come through loud and clear. Not everybody with a CPA, folks involved in the world of money-making, would feel this way. What is in your background that leads you to this passion for helping the  less fortunate?

Lou: My family was not heavy church. But my parents modeled service. My Dad did a lot of stuff free for people. He was a sports announcer in Cleveland, so when he made speeches for Boy Scouts, for instance, he never charged. My parents sponsored a child through the Christian Children’s Fund. Because of their example, I started sponsoring kids when I got out of college. I was writing checks, and that was a good step for someone that age to be giving back.

I was working for profit at that point for a company that did real estate and construction. Wonderful folks.  But one day I looked in the mirror and asked myself, do I want to keep helping rich people get richer? That’s not enough. I decided I wanted to move into non-profit and try to help. I ended up in Children’s Health Care of Atlanta, not your typical non-profit in the sense that it’s been incredibly successful. They’re saving lives right and left, and they do it with unbelievable quality.

The Christian Children’s Fund serves kids in poverty around the world. At one point, Anne and I were sponsoring eight. We’d pray for each one. Every night at dinner the kids would rattle off their names. But finally I realized that if everybody’s writing checks and nobody is doing the work, nothing’s going to get done. So what can I do?

The Samaritan Clinic provided the opportunity to do something in Newnan and give back to this community, which I really am thrilled that I did.

Joan: You must have met a lot of wonderful people in your quest for donations.

Lou: One of the donors at the clinic told me about a man she met in an airport in Florida. Somehow they got onto the subject of philanthropy. He shared with her that he has decided he wants to give his money where he casts his shadow. She took that to heart. She said to herself, “I’m here in Newnan. I’m not casting my shadow in India or other places.”  So she changed her philanthropy dramatically to the benefit of the clinic, the Humane Society, and a number of other local charities. She is now giving where she casts her shadow.

Joan: Do you have other passions? What do you want to do next?

Lou: For some reason, seasons came to mind. Having just finished up my time at the clinic, to some extent, passion-wise, I’m in winter. I had the summer and the bloom when the clinic opened, and all the great things it did, then kind of found myself a little worn out and questioning myself as to whether I was the best person to take the clinic to the next step. Now the leaves have fallen off, and I’ve chosen to step back.

I’ll always be passionate about poverty and the less fortunate, but I don’t know what the next step will be. Bur the beauty of the seasons is, I may be in winter, but spring is coming. The blooms are going to come out. I’m totally confident my next step will be shown to me.

Anne and I, on our own paths and somewhat in a shared way, have always been interested in spiritual growth, so that’s always going to be a passion.

The whole concept of simplicity just speaks to me, and I don’t mean in the narrow, clean-out-your-closets, keep-it-simple kind of way. I mean it much more broadly, where simplicity is the hub of your relationships. I’m also reflecting on spirituality. There are three or four things that define how I want to give my time. But within each of those, undergirding it, are simplicity and spirituality,

Joan: What do you mean by simplicity?

Lou: Well, everything from not being complicated to whittling down to what’s really essential. In fact, Anne had a book on her Kindle called Essentialism. The premise is, there are so few things that are truly essential. There are thousands of things that just aren’t important yet we manage to clutter up our lives with nonessentials if we are not intentional about our choices.

That leads me to my relationship with Jesus. All that we have to learn to understand and to grow is a quest toward greater unity and oneness with Christ. Just realizing that He is not just out there, He’s in here, in everybody and everything you’re encountering. And that leads to gratitude and appreciation. I can’t tell you how excited I am that I planted seven little gardenia bushes, and they’re all blooming. It’s their first year and they’re not even that fragrant yet, but the excitement! God is in those little white blossoms, and in the yellow leaf that fell off, too.