LIMA — To make a difference in their communities, area churches are throwing open their doors beyond the Sunday morning sermon to serve those in need.“I don’t think you can drive down any street in any town without seeing church signs advertising dinners, or a variety of help for people,” said Tammy Gough, coordinator of the West Central Ohio Health Ministries, a collaborative of 11 network churches.There are day cares, after-school programs, health programs, homes being built, soup kitchens manned, medical and financial outreach offered, food donations, and nursing visits. More offerings than churches. “Any more it’s a joint effort between churches. They cross paths and work together in performing more outreach. The denominational lines are getting blurred: no one any more says, ‘our church is doing this, or our church is doing that.’ The church walls don’t mean as much as they used to. Now they work together outside those walls for their brothers. And the community reaps the rewards of this,” Gough said.Just ask Mindy Thatcher. The 42-year-old single mother of a pre-teen son relied on the churches’ Family Promise program for her food and shelter during a time she was homeless.“I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to admit I was homeless. I had lived with relatives, and I had a job but I didn’t make enough money to get a home for me and my son. I had a lot of mixed emotions,” Thatcher said.Under Family Promise, families like Mindy’s are given food and lodging every night at a participating church, and driven every day to a day center where they can shower, do laundry, and ready themselves for the day.As Family Promise executive director Peggy Adams explains, “Each of our host churches commits to four weeks per year. There are 10 churches now serving as host churches. We have beds that we blow up for their use, but the churches provide the linens and the evening meal. Many of them house the people in Sunday school rooms for the night.“Church volunteers stay in the evening and play games or help with homework, and volunteers stay all night in the church with the families. On Friday nights, we leave the families at the church until 8 on Sunday mornings so the churches plan good things for Saturdays for the people. It takes a lot of volunteers — about 60 per week. Some of our member churches only have 70 people, many of whom are older, so that’s a big commitment,” she said. Adams is quick to point out that Family Promise does not duplicate any services offered through other programs. “This fills the gap between the Lima Rescue Mission and Samaritan House. This allows families to stay together during this difficult time. It’s geared for people with children under 18,” Adams said.More importantly, Adams said Family Promise is “a non-denominational program. The churches are showing their Christian faith by their actions, not just their love. They show these people unconditional love in non-judgemental ways.” And for Thatcher, the fear of being judged was one of the hardest parts of being homeless.“I knew some of the people serving the dinners and staying with us through the night. I thought it would be awkward, but I wasn’t judged. I realized I have no shame in this, I just need some help,” she said.And while it’s not the same as being in your own home, Thatcher said the people at all the churches they visited during their four-month stint were kind in extending them a temporary home. “And the food? Lord have mercy, you have no idea the food. I’ll never get this weight off me,” she said, laughing.Today, Thatcher and her son live in a Lima apartment. She continues to work in fast food while she hunts for a job in which she can use her associate’s degree in human services.For the churches, that success story is just one of the 33 they’ve heard since the Family Promise program began in 2008. And, it’s just the tip of the iceberg on their mission to serve.Likewise, area service clubs also go outside the walls of their weekly meetings to meet the needs of the community. Everything from raising money to help prevent child abuse to helping with vision problems is handled by area service clubs.In fact, Allen County Commissioner Dan Reiff says that the service clubs, as well as the churches, “fill the gap that government can’t fill financially and emotionally. In many cases, people who would not ask for help from a government agency will ask for help from a church or a civic organization.”And for those groups, that’s just fine.“Jesus calls us to help others through service. Before you can make disciples, you need to help people. We all need to help one another,” said Linda Pollitz of New Creation Lutheran Church in Ottawa.Jan Heinrich of St. Paul United Methodist Church in Celina adds, “we’re called to help bring people to a greater wholeness. These are steps to a more peaceful world, a more peaceful community and a more peaceful self.”As Kathy Lund from St. Luke Lutheran Church in Lima said, “sometimes it just helps to know that others care.”And as the Rev. Phyllis Fetzer, associate pastor at Trinity United Methodist in Lima adds, “we all realize that people can fall through the holes easily. There are broken pieces and strengths in all of us, and when we join those together, it helps to fill those holes so fewer people fall through.”
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.