The Sanctuary Covenant Christian Fellowship Church in Hamilton is expanding its outreach efforts to help the underserved population in the city. The church is partnering with local schools and social service agencies to help deal with issues like poverty and homelessness.
In Butler County, there are more than 775 children classified as homeless, meaning they live in cars, motels or “couch surf” among friends and family, according to Jennifer Withrow, executive director of the Butler County group Family Promise.
Shelters throughout Butler County are reporting higher numbers of female residents, and a church-based shelter in Middletown said 24 of its 58 homeless clients in its first six weeks have been women, according to Bill Fugate, one of the coordinators at Serving Homeless with Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM).
Pastors Vanessa McQueen and her husband, Fredrick, lead the Sanctuary Christian Fellowship Church, which is located at 117 Park Ave. They felt that the church should get involved in dealing with issues facing people who are suffering from not having a meal and other issues that come from poverty.
“It’s all about trying to make a difference in the community,” Vanessa said. “We have been co-pastors for about five years and we wanted the congregation to get involved with these issues.”
The church started working with Brookwood Elementary School to make help provide meals for students in need.
“We have been providing food baskets for students at Thanksgiving and Christmas so they can have a meal with all of the trimmings,” Vanessa explained. “The school has determined which kids are struggling and in need and they give us a list and we go out and go shopping so they can also have a present for Christmas. We have extended this to the high school as well.”
After hearing about social service agencies ramping up efforts to get needy families clothing and baby accessories, Vanessa said the church wanted to help make a difference.
“We started a relationship with Once Upon a Child to help get clothes to those in need,” she said. “A program that was going into homes dealing with older children discovered that many infants and toddlers didn’t have clothes or other necessary items, so we decided to step up and be a resource for them for Christmas.”
Zane Lykins, the student and family support specialist at Brookwood, said the church has been able to provide 15 to 20 meals during Thanksgiving and Christmas for the past four years.
Lykins was on his way out the door Wednesday afternoon to meet with the church and collect Christmas baskets for about 15 kids this year.
“We try to get the baskets as early as possible so parents can have the chance to put a present under the tree,” he said.
Gina Walters, the community full success liaison for Brookwood and Hamilton High School, said the benevolence of the church has helped homeless students.
“It has been a huge blessing,” Walters said of the church’s efforts. “They helped out three high school families this year as well as Brookwood students. Two of the high school kids are still homeless.”
To inject even more of the Christmas spirit into the community this year, the church has come up with a unique idea called the “Journey to Bethlehem.” The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturda at the church.
“It is not a pageant or a play, but it will set the atmosphere for what it was like when Mary and Joseph came into Bethlehem,” Vanessa said.
HOW TO GO
What: “Journey to Bethlehem,” a reenactment of Joseph and Mary coming to Bethlehem.
Where: The Sanctuary Covenant Christian Fellowship Church in Hamilton, 117 Park Ave.
When: The event will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 23 at the church.
Cost: Free admission.
Food, music and games that reenact the time period will highlight the event.