This reflection by Gates DeHart is one of a series of videos this stewardship season focusing on the ministries that St. John’s parishioners make possible through their gifts and resources. You can watch these videos on our YouTube channel.
For the past 25 years, I have been coordinating a program for homeless families here at St. John’s under the aegis of Family Promise of Greater Roanoke. Every three months, four families comprising of no more than 14 individuals, spend a week at the Lighthouse. During that time, they are provided shelter, three meals a day and the care and concern of many St. John’s parishioners.
Aside from the 85 percent success rate of getting these folks back into jobs and affordable housing, the blessing I continue to derive from this program is the delight with which the volunteers approach their work and the joy I see in their faces.
For the past 10 years, I have served on the board of Congregations in Action, a coalition of congregations in Old Southwest partnering with Highland Park School, serving as mentors to the children, lunch buddies, tutors and teacher aides.
St. John’s volunteers help with the pack-a-snack program, whereby nutritious meals are placed in the backpacks of 90-some children at school day’s end on Friday. It may well be the only food the family has for the weekend.
My area of service involves weekly lunches and tutoring with disadvantaged third-grade boys. A few years ago, during an outing with two of my young charges, which included a movie, lunch and a visit to the science museum, I heard one boy saying quietly to himself, “I think this is the best day of my life.” To say that that warmed the cockles of my heart is to understate the case.
Although volunteer-driven, these outreach programs grow greatly from the generous support of St. John’s parishioners. The true beneficiaries, of course, are the myriad families and young people directly touched by the good people of this church. My hope and prayer is that this support will always be there.