From the 2019 Ministry Narrative
One of the more gratifying and meaningful activities within our ministry of outreach this past year was to continue our Lenten practice of assisting a local ministry in the community throughout the entire season of Lent.
For the second year in a row, we committed to helping two local organizations: The Abbie Shelter and Farm Hands - Nourish the Flathead. Outreach is not just about providing services; it is also about establishing, celebrating, and relishing relationships. We are delighted to be long time supporters of the Abbie Shelter as well as establishing this new connection with Farm Hands.
The Abbie Shelter houses women and children who are the victims of domestic abuse and provides critical counseling to assist them in their healing. Funds collected in 2019 went specifically to helping the Abbie purchase dorm size refrigerators to put in individual rooms. Their one, shared refrigerator was not sufficient to hold community meals, medications, and smaller items that the residents need for themselves and their children. We were thrilled to be able to assist the Abbie in their goal to furnish every single guest room with a refrigerator.
Farm Hands is a local organization dedicated to helping the people of our community experience local and homegrown foods. They support a multitude of programs including Community Gardens, Senior Services, Farm to School, Blackfeet-Nourish Project, and Youth Empowerment. This Lent we helped Farm Hands provide vegetables and fruit for students in the Columbia Falls School System to take home with them, along with other food provided by the Montana Food Bank Network, for meals during the weekends in Lent.
We are in our sixth year of helping to provide significant outreach to those living in the Canyon outside Glacier Park. It took two years of work for our folks and the ecumenical community we are associated with to become familiar and trusted faces in the neighborhood but that has now happened. We continue to provide a ministry of hospitality and service to those living in this lovely part of Montana who need a helping hand. Not only are we providing festive meals, but also backpacks, shoes, school supplies, clothing, and additional food for those in need. This effort in the Canyon has really hit its stride.
Our Church also has a very strong presence in the wider Flathead community when it comes to outreach. Through a line item in our budget and support of the Discretionary Fund, we have been available to help those who desperately need aid for medical care, car repairs, gas and food money, utility payments, rent, assistance to those attending Flathead Valley Community College, lodging for those stranded, train and bus tickets, and to help mistreated people obtain safe shelter from domestic abuse.
Within The Episcopal Church structure, our parish participates in the United Thank Offering (UTO), the Episcopal Relief and Development Fund (ERD), and other national/international programs, through our gifts and assessment to the Diocese of Montana.
We also support Camp Marshall’s Grace Camp, a camp for children whose parents are incarcerated or otherwise serving sentences in the correctional system. Again this year, several in the parish made quilts and we are delighted that many of those works of art and love are given to campers attending Grace Camp. Each camper chooses their own quilt and takes it home at the end of the week as a symbol of the love the church has for him or her.
We also delight in the fact that several of our parishioners join others at the Springs Assisted Living facility, in a group known as the KnitWits, to knit toys, hats, and scarves for those served by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates).
For the ninth year in a row, we have used a daily coupon book during Lent to help us count our blessings and give to the ERD Hope Chest in thanksgiving for the abundant gifts from God that we have received. We have gone from having sixty booklets in the beginning to printing over 500 booklets last year in partnership with the Diocese of Utah. Booklets were sent, free of charge, to any parish across the country who requested them. For the last several years this has been a ministry of the Lake Missoula Clericus, which is the organization of clergy of the Episcopal Churches in the western part of the state.
Within our community and the surrounding area, we support a vast number of extraordinary outreach agencies in addition to the above-mentioned organizations. Over the last twelve months, through the budget, special offerings, and the Twelfth Annual Chili Open Golf Tournament, as well as emergency appeals made from the pulpit on Sunday mornings, our congregation has helped the following as of this writing:
* North Valley Food Bank
* Columbia Falls Food Bank
* Hungry Horse/Martin City Food Bank
* The Bishop’s Discretionary Fund
* The Humane Society of Northwest Montana
* Samaritan House
* The Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force
* Flathead Youth Home
* Spay Montana (serving the Blackfeet Reservation)
* Friends of the Flathead County Animal Shelter
* The Abbie Shelter
* CROP Walk - Columbia Falls
* RezQ Dogs
* The North Valley Hospital Foundation Teddy Bear Fund
* The Tobacco Valley Animal Shelter
* The Canyon Community Dinners
As well, through parishioners working through us, we have met emergencies confronting fellow citizens of the Flathead Valley by giving money to meet high expenses due to medical emergencies and ongoing healthcare treatments, theft, house fires, and other calamities. We provide a Shrove Tuesday pancake supper for people who would otherwise not have enjoyed it. We again helped economically disadvantaged people pay for veterinarian services for their companion animals.
In the national and international venue, we contribute to causes well beyond our borders, including the efforts of The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem. Every year, our Good Friday Offering, which goes to Jerusalem, also supports medical care in the Anglican hospital in Gaza City, Al Ahali, which provides medical care for those caught up in the violence in Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Of course one of our most lively and enjoyable activities this year was the above mentioned Twelfth Annual All Saints’ Chili Open, a golf tournament played in the snow for the joy of it and for the purpose of raising money for the Flathead Spay and Neuter Task Force, The Humane Society of Northwest Montana, The Flathead County Animal Shelter, and Spay Montana (which provides clinical services on The Blackfeet Reservation).
Every year this event becomes more well known and this year we raised close to $5,800 with around forty folks participating in golf, a party the night before, a silent auction, and buying “holes-in-one for $50.” Our partners in providing the delectable lunch have included Famous Dave’s in Kalispell and Loula’s in Whitefish. This winter golf course also functions as a “Folf” course in the summer with kids using Frisbees. It is probably the only “Folf” course in the world in which a PGA Championship and U. S. Open winner, David Graham, has played. It is a day of fun, but in the course of having fun, community ministries benefit greatly and people learn who we are.
Every year, near the end of summer, we have our celebrated gathering of school supplies for kids who otherwise would not have them. While in years past we have focused mainly on backpacks, this year, not unlike last, we diversified our purchasing to provide not only backpacks, but other necessary school supplies that are not often recognized as essential to today’s students. In addition to 40 backpacks chock-full of supplies and 22 gift certificates for gym shoes, we also purchased headphones and USB keys. These school necessities were delivered to the Whitefish Food Bank, the Columbia Falls Food Bank, Flathead Youth Home, Canyon Community Dinner, Columbia Falls Schools, and Whitefish Schools.
Our Advent gifts brought to the créche on the four Sunday mornings leading up to Christmas included: teddy bears or other stuffed animals, food for food banks, pet food, and warm clothes. This year enough teddy bears were collected to make about 80 children less fearful of the emergency room at North Valley Hospital. The food drive was very successful and made possible immediate relief for a very desperate mom whose child just had the trauma of massive burns to his face (thankfully he is making a full recovery). Over and above that Sunday gift to her, a considerable amount of food also went to the Columbia Falls Food Bank. The pet food came to 1,300 pounds and was delivered to the Spay and Neuter Task Force. On Christmas morning, we were again able to deliver many sacks of warm clothing, including lots of socks, the number one requested things at homeless shelters, to Samaritan House. We also distributed the “loose offering and designated checks” from our three Christmas Eve and our Christmas Day services to ministries within our area. This year, The Abbie Shelter, Samaritan House, and RezQ Dogs split the offering.
Service and outreach to the community also include making our church a safe place for everyone who may be visiting it. One of the most rewarding experiences of this year was hosting a summer day camp for the eleventh time, using staff from Camp Marshall and members from All Saints’ under the leadership of Cynthia Benkelman, our Minister for Christian Formation and Youth. We continue to operate at capacity with the interest in the program growing by leaps and bounds. It remains an extraordinary ministry provided to the community at no charge. This program has become so popular that there is a waiting list for kids to attend. In addition to all the fun activities, they also engaged in significant outreach by making cards, preparing group songs and taking “the show on the road” to assisted living centers: The Springs in Whitefish and the Beehive in Columbia Falls. The children delighted the residents with their singing and afterwards enjoyed interacting with them and giving them their cards and artwork.
What makes us somewhat unique with this summer ministry for kids is that it is our policy that every adult who works with children, beyond occasional occurrences, must receive our safe practices training (Safeguarding God’s Children) and have background checks. We hold ourselves to an extraordinarily high standard for the safety of all young people who participate in any youth event associated with All Saints’.
Our younger members engage in other community ministry which brightens, with simple gifts, the lives of those who are residents of Genesis Health Care in Whitefish (Colonial Manor). For example, each fall they decorate and deliver around eighty small pumpkins to the residents for Halloween. This is a favorite activity for all of our youth from small children going with the group for the first time to teens who have grown up visiting and interacting with home care residents.
Finally, because many in our community have no church home, we make our clergy available to those in need. Many are alone in the world and need pastoral care as well as the services of the church, especially, as was the case again this year, for burials when death strikes. And, at the same time, there are those who seek the church to be part of their lives when joy visits them, so we make our parish available for marriages for those whose religious traditions fall outside The Episcopal Church. In many ways, much of what we do as a church addresses a very wise expression from former Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple, who said, “The Church exists for the sake of those outside of it.”