Men at the Mark share a bond of service with community

December 18, 2023 | | GNJ News

The selfless volunteers at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Montclair, NJ, have been working hard to make a difference in people’s lives with the help of a Greater New Jersey Conference Peace with Justice Grant.

The Men at the Mark is a fellowship of men striving to be better servants of God and to “make good men better.”

Their Community Pantry (MMCP) is their first mission project taken on as a long-term commitment to help people in their community address food insecurity. When they launched their “pop-up” community market in September 2023, they partnered with Toni’s Kitchen, a free mobile market that offers a farmer’s market feel and provides fresh produce, shelf-stable groceries and hot meals.

Initially, the partners anticipated serving about 30 households and thought it would grow over time. But the first Saturday they opened the pop-up market, neighbors from nearly 80 households came through. The second market they offered in October drew over 100 households. The turnout was so great they had to get a second truck to accommodate everyone.

Lillie Edwards, who chairs the church’s leadership board, shared that addressing food insecurity is one of the things they are most proud of at The Mark. Food is a constant feature at every community event or as many as possible.

Whether distributing school supplies in September or Christmas gifts in December, whether showing up at an outdoor music performance in the summer or serving hot beverages to passersby in the winter, they are always working to distribute food to anyone who needs it.

Providing food, shelter, health information and more

In fact, the Men at the Mark provide not only food but also shelter in the church’s fellowship hall for unhoused neighbors, in partnership with the Montclair Emergency Services for Hope (MESH). They also provide water, snacks and backpacks full of necessities at Christmas time.

Additionally, their ministry extends to seniors in the community at their two senior living homes. In keeping with their plans for the grant, they added monthly in November a health table at the pop-up market that will provide information and assistance to residents on a variety of topics, including applying for Medicare and Medicaid, meeting nutritional needs, and attaining greater health and wellness.

The Rev. Karline (Kay) Dubuisson, the pastor, who has a background in nursing and social work, and her leaders are passionate about community outreach and education through partnerships. They were shocked at the number of people who have come to the pop-ups. “We are always surprised at how big God is” she said.

Another surprise was the close bonding the men involved experienced. Ranging from their 20s to 60s in age, they found a common goal and kinship in the ministry.  “That kind of fellowship that grows out of doing mission together is so powerful,” said Lillie Edwards, “and it’s difficult to explain to people until they experience it themselves.”

Reaching out to community partners

The next step for the Men at the Mark is more outreach and growth. They are reaching out to other community partners, such as Montclair High School and Montclair State University, and even area middle schools and Girl Scout troops. Their goal is to draw in teens and young adults to volunteer on Saturdays. They hope to encourage intergenerational volunteers and give various neighbors chances to continue bonding over the cause of helping others.

The Mark is a United Methodist community that is boldly taking on new ministries in their faithfulness. As Edwards says, “God is with us in all that we do. Putting on the armor of God and being unafraid to go out into the world and transform it will do more than we can imagine.”

St. Mark’s UMC, with the help of their GNJ Peace with Justice Grant, has a unique opportunity to plant seeds in its community and watch them grow. Everything that they have been able to accomplish, and those they have been able to help, are a testament to what is possible with faith in God.