Serving in mission is a part of the DNA in the congregation at St. Paul’s UMC in Brick, so when COVID-19 travel restrictions cancelled their mission trips, the congregation moved to local needs and partners to keep on serving.
Partnering with Cypress Missions, teams from St. Paul’s renovated the Bethel AME Church Ford Center’s food pantry and clothing closet in Asbury Park so that the church can serve the people in need.
The group worked tirelessly on many projects including painting the exterior of the building, general construction and electrical, organizing and installing new shelves for inventory and installing a new sign.
Douglas Buechler, chair of the Missions Ministry at St. Paul’s UMC, said at the beginning of the pandemic they slowed their gatherings “to help flatten the curve,” but that when July came around, they started to work wearing masks and working in separate areas.
“COVID didn’t stop us from wanting to help people. Every Wednesday, this food pantry has lines of people waiting past Springwood Avenue two hours before it opens. When we learned that this historic building could use some updating to serve the community better, now and for years to come, we mobilized,” said Freddie Fiorentino of Cypress Missions who after inspecting the building noticed several repair issues that needed to be addressed.
“The work at the church began last November. The work at the Ford Center’s food pantry, a few blocks from the church, began on July 9, 2020. Both projects are essentially complete…one or two workdays for finishing touches. When the churches are allowed full services again, we look forward to a day of worship and fellowship with our friends at Bethel AME,” he said.
Renovations and improvements at the church involved sealing windows, replacing doors, insulating and sheet rocking a small room, painting and minor electrical repairs. The site of the Ford Center’s food pantry holds a place in history for music lovers. In December 1928, Fats Waller and Andy Razaf wrote the Grammy Hall of Fame song, “Honeysuckle Rose,” which has been recorded by nearly 500 artists. Cypress Missions’ volunteers installed a brass plaque to commemorate the dedication of the property by the Asbury Park Historical Society and Asbury Park Museum.
“Our team painted the interior and the exterior, made repairs, updated the air conditioning, installed shelving and gave the kitchen facilities a light makeover there. St. Paul’s food pantry staff helped organize and streamline distribution. Like most mission outreach projects, the funding comes from the heart of the people. I never worry about the money, it always comes. That is the faith part…how wonderful is that!” he said.
Buechler added that as the missions chair, he is the point of contact for serving opportunities at St Paul’s UMC.
“The missions team at St. Paul’s is always ready to serve. I simply make the call, and it’s all hands on deck,” said Buechler who added that on any given day there would be between six and 15 people show up to help.
“St. Paul’s has a very vibrant mission history. We have sent teams to Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maine, South Dakota, Mexico, Haiti and Puerto Rico. We also have youth mission trips centered around community service,” he said.
“Our team consists of about 20 folks who participate when they are available. We have several husband and wife teams. We have families with teen children and many other individuals who step up to the mission ministry at St. Paul’s. As on any mission trip there is work and ministry at many levels – very little expertise, a lot of good know-how and faith that you are doing work that is pleasing to God,” he said.
“There is always a good feeling when helping others. As in any mission trip, hopefully you grow as a Christian.”
Fiorentino noted, “We started our work 25 years ago helping our Jersey Shore community and it’s great to have the opportunity to refocus in our own backyard. It has been nothing but pure joy for us to give back.”
For more information about St. Paul’s, visit here.