Gift of the Heart Kits – stories and ideas
Congregations, students, and others have come together in creative ways to collect, assemble, and share in this ecumenical ministry that offers tangible help to disaster survivors and others in need. Read about their ideas, and tell PDA how your group has been involved with the Gift of the Hearts Kits (GOH) ministry. Or perhaps some of the ideas shared will spark an interest in a creative way for your congregation to get involved!
We encourage those who have participated in this ministry to pray for those who will receive your gifts – that the hope of Christ will be evident to them, and that along with material support, they will receive a reminder of the love of God.
Presbytery’s annual meeting includes the mission of assembling cleanup buckets
Shenandoah Presbytery prepared 128 clean up buckets to assist families beginning the daunting task of clean up following a disaster. The CWS Seeds of Service fall 2012 newsletter shares the story:
When hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, winter storms and other natural disasters strike communities across the United States, our natural urge is to reach out with the same compassion and support we’d give our next-door neighbors. The only question is “how?”
Packed with sponges, cleaning supplies, trash bags, disinfectants and more, a CWS Emergency Cleanup Bucket offers essential resources for families beginning the overwhelming task of cleaning up after a disaster. And it tells them, “We care.”
Earlier this summer, 864 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets were distributed following Tropical Storm Debby to the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services Warehouse in Tampa, which worked with the Florida Association of Food Banks to provide them in the counties most in need. And as Hurricane Isaac wreaked havoc along the Gulf Coast in late August, CWS provided material resources to affected areas, including 2,000 Emergency Cleanup Buckets; 1,018 Hygiene Kits; 55 Baby Care Kits and some 2,300 CWS Blankets.
We can’t predict exactly when or where disasters will occur. But we can prepare for them.
Caring neighbors help with cleanup
Among all the CWS Kits assembled by various communions and groups, the CWS Emergency Cleanup Bucket holds a special place in their hearts.
That’s why the Shenandoah Presbytery’s disaster response team enlisted the entire Presbytery in a CWS Cleanup Bucket assembly project carried out during their annual meeting on February 11 at the Mount Olive Presbyterian Church in Hinton, Va. Gathering at the meeting were some 200 delegates, representing more than 120 Virginia and West Virginia churches and including more than 100 pastors.
The “bucket team” arrived early to set up an assembly area and was soon collecting bucket items from arriving delegates. With the morning session in progress, the team positioned products for the assembly line. During and after their lunch, the meeting participants came in to help assemble the buckets.
At the end of the day, after being checked for completeness, sealed and labeled, 128 finished CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets were ready to go.
Calling the assembly project “no small task,” CWS’s Cindy Watson thanked the Shenandoah Presbytery and Dave Thalman, director of its disaster response team.
“Some 128 families will be able to do so much with the supplies your group tucked into these 5-gallon buckets,” said Watson, “and your caring and thoughtfulness will make life better for our ‘neighbors’ here in the U.S.”
Living out God’s Love from Logan, Scotts, North Carolina
One of the goals adopted by the youth of Logan Presbyterian Church fits perfectly with the church's mission statement of "living out Christ's love in the world." The youth meetings are used to discuss ways in which they can share and assist others in the home, school, community and throughout the world. The Youth Organization has taken an active part in "clean the church projects" as well as finding ways to assist younger children and senior citizens. The organization has made the youth aware of how the economy and catastrophic events have impacted the lives of people, locally, nationally and around the world. It has helped them to be more appreciative of what they have and not to take what they have for granted.
This awareness motivated the youth to show their appreciation through actions, not just words. They did this by becoming involved with the Gifts of the Heart Kit ministry. The youth asked members of the congregation for donations to purchase items needed to complete the Hygiene Kit for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.
On November 18, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, members of the congregation consisting of young children, youth and adults came together and assembled 91 kits. Tables were filled with items and an assembly line was formed. Mrs. Annie Parker, one of the oldest members of the church worked diligently to assemble the kits. God has blessed Logan Presbyterian Church as we strive to live out Gods love in the world.
PDA thanks Geraldine Dalton and Faye Rucker for sharing your story, and Geraldine for the photograph. And thanks to the members of Logan Presbyterian Church for participating in this ecumenical ministry that blesses many people around the world.
Congregation in Sandy-affected area reaches out to offer hope to others
Prospect Presbyterian Church is located in Maplewood, New Jersey, one of the many places that was forever changed by Hurricane Sandy. As you might suspect in a town named Maplewood, beautiful old trees are plentiful, and many of them were unable to withstand the forceful winds of the storm. Property damage, widespread power outages lasting more than a week, a gas shortage, debris in the roads and on the sidewalks, and snowfall from a nor’easter all made life in this community challenging in the weeks following Sandy.
Prospect’s November 4 worship service was cancelled due to the power outage. On our first Sunday back at Prospect, all ages were scheduled to meet for a monthly intergenerational “Sensational Sunday” instead of attending age segregated Sunday school classes. As the Director of Education in this lectionary-based church, I wanted to plan an event that invited us to both hear the Good News of our text and respond to the realities of the storm experience.
Our lectionary focus text for the day was Mark 12:38-44, the story of the widow who gave her two small coins to the offering in the temple. Hers was a gift of the heart. It seemed only right that participants should have the opportunity to share gifts of the heart as well, and the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance webpage gave us the information we needed to do just that!
I quickly sent an email to the Prospect Church family, requesting that Sensational Sunday participants bring a contribution for Gift of the Heart Hygiene Kits. Items were assigned according to the first letter of a person’s last name. Knowing that people were just getting power back and trying to re-stock their refrigerators, I couldn’t predict what kind of response we would get.
The response was yet another example of a community coming together in a positive way as a result of this disaster. People who could not be present sent their donations by other means. People who had not attended Sensational Sundays in the past walked in with their contributions in hand. Following the story of the widow’s gift, all ages enthusiastically formed an assembly line to make the kits. Kits that were short particular items were completed by a generous volunteer the following day. In all, 59 hygiene kits were mailed, and extra items were set aside in order to make additional kits in the future.
Instead of two small coins, we brought toothbrushes, combs, and washcloths. Yes, we gave out of our abundance; but we also gave out of our own experiences of vulnerability, of lives that had been disrupted, even if only temporarily. As such, they truly were “Gifts of the Heart”.
Thanks to Rita Boyer for sharing your story and photographs.
Pentecost Day Worship/Mission
Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church in Dallas, Texas, assembled cleanup buckets as their worship/mission on Pentecost Sunday. The buckets will offer assistance to those in the United States recovering from disaster. Rev. Elizabeth McLean shares,
"60 minutes + 100 empty 5 gallon buckets + 165 people + 1000s of supplies = 100 filled clean up buckets for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). On Pentecost Sunday, May 27, worshippers of all ages flocked to Preston Hollow’s Jubilee Hall for a different kind of worship service. They were greeted by a room ringed by tables with cleaning supplies and upended orange buckets serving as seats in the middle of the room. Worship began with song and prayer and scripture and that’s where it really stopped feeling like your typical Presbyterian sanctuary service. Instead of a homily, small groups formed around the room to discussed John 20:21-22:
"Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.”
Worshippers then responded to the word by forming small teams, grabbing a bucket and filling them with supplies as indicated by PDA’s website. It was loud, chaotic and joyful as children as young as two and adults needing scooters figured out the best way to navigate the crowds and complete their buckets. Just prior to sealing each bucket, folks wrote notes of love and encouragement to those who would eventually receive them.
When asked where the idea came from, Rev. Elizabeth McLean answered, “In one Community Outreach Council meeting, we were trying to find ways to include more people in service. Since Saturdays are so crazy for many people, we thought about Sundays. Then I remembered that the word in Hebrew for worship also means service.” Thus, a new idea for worshipping and serving simultaneously was born. Ruling Elder Anné Hughes commented that, “we are ready to plan more worship-service events. Next time, we hope to take a bus caravan to a local site.” Maybe the highest compliment paid all morning came from Phillip Rigler, age seven, “That was the best church EVER!”
Photo thanks to Bert Colter.
Story thanks to Rev. Elizabeth Boone McLean, Associate Pastor, Mission & Evangelism.
Gratitude from Slidell, Louisiana
Timothy Ruppel lives in Slidell, where Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, and where tens of thousands of volunteers have participated in the clean up and rebuilding.
Timothy shares, “ …I put together 6 Hygiene "Gifts of the Heart" Kits, and mailed them yesterday … I bought these kits largely in gratitude to the continuing efforts PDA and others have done in and around New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. Your faithful response here in Christ has changed me, and I thank you.”
For several years following Hurricane Katrina, Tim’s church marked the anniversary with an offering taken to support the work of PDA. Once the church completed this, Tim still wanted a way to continue the tradition. Not wanting to send a check, he found information on the web site about a way to help through the Gift of the Heart Kits ministry. Thank you, Tim.
Trinity Presbyterian Church in Boise, Idaho, heard about GOH from a sister church in Boise. Barbara Campbell shares their story:
“Our Mission Committee started these projects in the Spring of 2010 as a “hands on” local project for our Church members during our “Inside Out” weekends in May and August 2010. These are weekends in which our Church members focus on “being the Church rather than going to Church”. Members had the option of working on several local projects to help the community. We had assembling these “gift of the heart kits” on site at Trinity for members who wanted to be at Church on the Sunday morning of the project. (There were no services on these Sundays – members were encouraged to go “out and serve” instead.)
"Assembling the final kit was just one aspect of the project. We had to start about six weeks before the assembly date publicizing our efforts and indicating items we needed. Our wonderful Church secretary helped with this part of the project. Each Sunday in our bulletin, we indicated what we needed and progress towards our goal. I had to do some motivational speaking from the pulpit once or twice to explain the importance of these projects. People responded very well and contributed their cash, or specific items needed, and their time. We were very pleased with the outcome because we had an overwhelming response to all the kits.
Since May, 2010, we completed the following projects:
- Hygiene Kits – May 2010 (approx. 75-100)
- Blankets for Babies: Aug. 2010 – (approx. 50 – 75)
- School Kits - May 2011 (approx. 85)
We had such a response to the school kits that we are sending another shipment (about 25 more) this week. These are kits that our children from our VBS put together as a Mission Project …”
Many groups at Trinity participated in this mission, including the colorful bags for school kits sewn by some talented seamstresses in the congregation. Thank you to Trinity Presbyterian Church for continuing in this ministry.
Vacation Bible School
Fredericksburg Presbyterian Church in Ohio held VBS in June 2011. Erika shares with us,
“… For the nightly VBS offering, we wanted to find a project that would be kids helping kids. Our Outreach Team had promoted the Gift of the Heart Clean Up Buckets to our congregation after all the devastating tornadoes in the south and Missouri. But, that wasn't necessarily kids helping kids, so our VBS team decided we would make the Gift of the Heart School Kits for children …
“Our goal was to raise enough money to make 10 kits (we estimated the cost at $150). After the first three nights of VBS, the kids had raised $150 exactly. So, we made them a challenge for the fourth night to raise an additional $50. The kids really got into it and Thursday evening we had kids walking in with sandwich baggies of coins and saying phrases like "I emptied my piggy bank." It was really amazing to see these young children (age 4 - 6th grade) get behind this project. On the last night, the kids raised an additional $185 dollars. VBS Volunteers were amazed.
“We had some ladies in the congregation come forward to make the cloth bags at no cost. So, we were able to buy enough supplies to make 33 kits … Our Cool Christian Kids for Christ (CKFC) Youth Group (grade 4th - 6th) then assembled the bags to be shipped. They really enjoyed assembling the kits and knowing they were helping other children. It was a great service project for them to do.”
Thank you to the children, youth and adults at Fredericksburg Presbyterian Church who worked together to share the love of Christ through this ministry.
Gifts and Prayers
Seven year old Lauren saw on television the news footage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. She told her mother Patti, a deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Mount Holly, North Carolina, she wanted to “send a gift basket or something to the people in Japan.”
Patti shares, “… Her kind and generous heart impressed me so much that I thought of little else the rest of the morning. Taking this as a sign from God, I decided to search for a way to help and came to the PC(USA) website where I read about PDA and the Gift of the Heart Kits. I ran the idea by Lauren and she thought it was a good idea and wanted to have the kids at church help. So, after a few calls to our youth director and our pastor, the wheels were set in motion to get the Hygiene Kits put together….” The congregation’s First Kids and Youth gathered to assemble the kits.
Our thanks to Lauren and the members of First Presbyterian Church for your gifts to support those in need, and for remembering that prayer is our best response. “Our prayers are with the people of Japan, and all of the men and women, in the PDA and other organizations, who are helping these victims.” (Patti)
Elementary Children’s Retreat
“The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley had an elementary children's retreat this past weekend. 45 children and adults gathered at Poplar Point Camp to celebrate the World Day of Prayer. The children learned about participating in God's work in the world through prayer and action. Part of the celebration included packing 50 hygiene kits for PDA. The kits will be shipping to the Ferncliff Center.
“I thought you'd like to hear this story of how some of God's younger children are making a difference... Making the kits really gives the children a sense of empowerment and confidence in their God-given abilities to share in God's work.”
Thanks to Rev. Lisa Stenner, First Presbyterian Church of Auburn, Alabama, for sharing about this mission.
Clean up after Dinner
“On August 12, 2010, members and friends of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in Kilmarnock, Virginia, assembled 50 Clean-Up Buckets for Church World Service. Those who did the work ranged in age from six to mid-eighties.
Prior to assembling the buckets, participants shared a dinner that the children and youth of the church had prepared. The "price of admission" for dinner was a contribution toward the cost of the items for the buckets. The church then enlisted the help of some teenagers from the church to deliver the buckets to CWS' facility in New Windsor, Maryland.”
Thank you, Judy Thomson, for sharing your photo and story about dinner with a purpose.