Ocean Township resident Donna Hulse has been a member of Hamilton UMC in Neptune for the past 16 years. During this time, she along with other church members, assisted with countless outreach programs in the local community including bringing meals to The Center in Asbury Park, donating supplies to the Chant Food Pantry of Neptune, and knitting/crocheting caps and blankets for those with cancer and babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. Now another outreach effort is underway by not only Hamilton UMC but members of Ballard UMC in Asbury Park, First UMC in Oakhurst, and Wall UMC in Wall Township.
Dubbed the ‘Community Mission,’ Hulse said that “we would like the entire community to participate.”
“We are partnering with these other churches. At the moment they are all United Methodist churches, but we have invited all denominations to join with us. I believe they are assisting because there is a great need for folks to be taken care of until they can get on their feet,” she said. “The mission statement of the ‘Community Mission’ sets forth our goal – to find, feed, and aid homeless individuals. An empty stomach is a problem. As a church, it is our responsibility to help correct the problem by providing life’s basic necessities.”
As this is the time of year in which giving to others is at the forefront of many people’s minds, Hulse said it should be emphasized that the ‘Community Mission’ will be ongoing and not limited to the holiday season.
“We began on Tuesday, November 1st and we will be serving on the first and fourth Tuesdays of the month. It is open to anyone who has a need,” she said.
Hulse added that the idea for initiating a local mission came to her after a trip to Virginia last spring.
“I was visiting my son and daughter-in-law. They participated in a program called ‘Mercy Drop’ with their church. They go into Portsmouth, Virginia on Monday nights and distribute supplies and food to the homeless. I believed we could do something similar here. And my church agreed with me,” Hulse continued.
Christopher Stanley, supply pastor at Ballard UMC and part of the Northern Shore Mosaic Team, said his church became involved with the mission project because of a request from the neighboring Hamilton UMC.
“They approached us about using our church building space as a site from which their church, in partnership with other churches in the area, could do ministry that blesses the least of these, in the name of Christ. It’s important because it has everything to do with being faithful to who Jesus has called us to be as the church. The mission is a great reminder for all of us that our identity as disciples calls us to be people who express their faith by actively choosing to love and serve others.”
Hulse said, “We will be taking soup and sandwiches to Ballard UMC on Tuesday evenings. In addition, we will be bringing supplies such as socks, toiletries, hats and gloves for distribution to those in need. Each church or group will be collecting supplies and signing up volunteers. Each church or group will designate a week per month that they will be responsible for. Hamilton UMC will be the supply depot, and Ballard UMC will be the distribution center. Ballard was chosen for this purpose for two reasons – they are centrally located in Asbury Park, and they already have a program in place serving those in need. Every Saturday morning they serve a hot breakfast to approximately 30 to 60 people, and they do it very well. People already know to go to them for assistance. The ‘Community Mission’ is an extension of that assistance to others.”
Supplies are dropped off at Hamilton UMC. Toiletries such as shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap are collected along with socks, hats, scarves, underwear, blankets, water, wet naps, and rain ponchos. All supplies should be new and travel-size.
“There are many, many hands and hearts involved in the Community Mission. Matthew 25 is so clear that we are called to feed the hungry,” said Rev. Jessica Campbell of Hamilton UMC. “There are hungry people right here in our community, and so we are compelled by our faith to go and feed them. We are also blessed to be providing the homeless basic supplies as well. We are all working together to make this life-giving, life- changing ministry happen.”
“It is such a great program because the youngest child to the most elderly senior citizen can serve in some way and make a difference,” Hulse said.
Campbell added that there is no timeline for the Community Mission project.
“We would love to work ourselves out of the ministry, and we pray that there will be a day when there will no longer be hungry people. Until then, we have work to do.”