Four years ago, Cook Native American Ministries Foundation staff visited our Native American St. John’s United Methodist Church in New Jersey to introduce themselves, visit the community, and extend an invitation for us to apply for grant funds from the Foundation.
In 2020, we were awarded a grant for our innovative Vacation Bible School which uses a locally written culturally rich curriculum. The grant allowed us to develop a culturally relevant VBS model within a standard model. At the time, who knew we would be paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. We followed the Center for Disease Control regulations by reconfiguring our model while retaining the Native American curriculum. This new version of our project, the “busy bag” program, provided a monthly bag of bible lessons, healthy snacks, and craft activities for our local school children who were attending virtual school and sheltering in place at home.
With gratefulness, we were again, excited to receive a grant for 2022, with a focus on Winter Gear UP! COVID had hurt our community, with many deaths from the pandemic. Inflation was on the horizon and gaining speed.We knew our families would need help for the first and last quarters of 2022. Seasonal layoffs left families struggling. Parents told us they needed coats and winter gear for their children, more food in their pantries, help dealing with the virus itself, and other individualized concerns.
Using CNAMF’s funding, we distributed 100 blankets and quilts, and we organized a winter clothing drive with special emphasis on coats for all sizes, genders, and preferences. We sponsored three vaccine clinics that served over 200 tribal members. Food giveaways increased from once per month to three per month, and we increased the offerings of yummy, fresh produce. Cook Native American Ministries Foundation gaveus the courage to believe we could survive the horrendous devastation of families attacked by thishorrible disease.
Sometimes a grant is the icing on the cake. For St. John’s UMC, the CNAMF grant allowed us to serve more children and family with coats, winter gear, clothing, and food items–a true benefit for our families. We look forward to continuing our relationship with CNAMF and applaud the work they do in our small churches.