NORTHFIELD — Getting help to families in trouble is an ongoing project at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.
The church is a regional hub for collecting supplies, organizing and working with Mission Central to connect God’s resources with human need, according to lay leader and volunteer coordinator Nicole Troast.
Mission Central works with the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), which helps unite congregations working on projects nationally and internationally. Troast said when hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria hit in August and September, the volunteers at Good Shepherd gathered 240 flood buckets, 1,036 hygiene kits, 92 school kits, 54 birthing kits plus additional supplies and health items.
Troast said the items in the buckets are donations. People donate specific items for the buckets, or they donate the funds to purchase the items to fill a bucket. The members of the Mainland Regional High School Key Club are frequent volunteers, Troast said.
“The help of many hands really makes the work load lighter, and we appreciate every person who comes through the door to help in whatever way they can,” she said.
Linwood Boy Scout Troop 39 recently offered flood-relief buckets for sale at the Linwood Farmers Market. Donors paid $40 to cover the cost of one bucket. The Scouts assembled the buckets on the spot. Those buckets were among the many loaded on the Mission Central truck and headed to Houston, which was struck by Hurricane Harvey. Troast said buckets also were donated by other churches and local organizations, civic groups and local employers who have volunteer teams.
As Troast explained, since the church has been designated as a hub, putting relief efforts together is not done in crisis mode but as part of its ongoing mission to help others wherever that help is needed, as quickly as possible.
Volunteers work year-round to prepare for whatever emergency might arise, so that when they are called upon to assist, the framework is in place. Troast said supplies are being shipped to the affected area because it is now safe to do so.
“After a natural disaster like the hurricanes, first comes rescue and recovery, then the relief follows,” she said. “Although people want to go immediately and try to help, those first days after a crisis it is important to let the emergency people helping those in harm’s way get them to safety. Then comes recovery, and as soon as it is safe to be there, the relief effort begins.”
The Mission Central hub was started at Good Shepherd on March 27, 2010, by Howard and Rose Minnichbach, according to Good Shepherd pastor the Rev. Tom Starks. Howard Minnichbach has since died, but his wife, Rose, and her daughter, Shelley Hodac, of Egg Harbor Township, oversee the effort.
“We do this mission year-round, and supplies are always needed. It’s amazing to see the outpouring of support when a disaster actually hits, but being prepared is key,” said Troast. “Our mission team meets every third Thursday at the church from 6:00-7:00 p.m. We alternate activities with making PB&J sandwiches for Sister Jean’s Kitchen and/or assembling kits/buckets. .”
Good Shepherd is one of only two hubs in the state. (The other is Skylands Outreach Depot in Newton). Volunteers and donations are welcome. Anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, is encouraged to lend their time and talent the third Thursday of the month. Donations are also welcome, and the items will be purchased for the buckets.
Donations may be mailed to Good Shepherd UMC, P.O. Box 762, 207 Northfield Ave., Northfield NJ 08225. To volunteer, just show up the third Thursday of the month at 6:00 p.m. (Enter through the front door, and the room to the right is where the group assembles.) For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To learn more about Mission Central, visit goodshepherdumc.com or follow them on Facebook at Good Shepherd UMC, or call the church at 609-641-3219.