In the early days of school, church, and business closings, NSCBC hosted its first virtual all-church meeting. We reflected on how we were experiencing the disruptions. In just a few weeks, the pandemic was already revealing our vulnerabilities. We reviewed early job loss data and public health information suggesting where our region would likely experience the highest transmission rates and most profound economic impacts.
I recently reviewed my notes from that evening and found this sentence:
Pandemics reveal inequities that already exist, exaggerating them to the point of crisis.
I was grateful then – and now – to be part of a church that let that reality shape our thinking about how we would walk through the public health emergency together.
A result of that meeting was a Special Collections Fund, inviting our congregation to not only support our own Benevolence Fund, but to also give generously together toward organizations and projects outside the church. By July, our community had donated $28,000. To help prioritize and guide the use of funds, we decided we would seek opportunities to:
- help address areas of economic or physical vulnerability;
- leverage existing external partnerships of NSCBC;
- deepen or extend relationships, particularly in areas where we have not historically invested, and where those closest to the need can shape the gift.
Here is what NSCBC’s Special Collections Fund supported. The organizations highlighted with an (*) asterisk will participate in an upcoming meeting on Monday, September 21st, where leaders will share more with us about how the people they serve have been impacted by the public health emergency and how churches and individuals can partner with them to address issues of justice and equity.
Support to the Staff of AdviniaCare in Salem
In April, before coronavirus peaked in Massachusetts, anticipating the impact it was having in residential facilities, we purchased Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards along with notes of encouragement from the church for the staff of AdviniaCare in Salem, the nursing home where one of our regular attenders works. This was an opportunity to honor the sacrificial work the staff do and encourage them in advance of what we knew would be a devastating season of work.
In April, we supported the FeedBeverly initiative to expand food distribution in Beverly. While we recognize that Beverly is not the most economically vulnerable community in our region, it is where we call home and where we have served the Downtown Dinner for more than 30 years. As school and business closures disrupted people’s incomes, they also changed where people could access food. Beverly Bootstraps responded by increasing their distribution efforts including partnership with Beverly Public Schools.
Feed the Frontlines
In May, we supported Feed the Frontlines, an effort of local residents to provide meals to medical professionals and hospital personnel. This is part of a movement in many major cities, powered by a Facebook group and person-to-person sharing as well as the assistance of local restaurants. Meals served doctors, nurses, and those working in transport, laboratory, security, kitchen, custodial care, maintenance and more. Our gift was given along with funds from other churches and included a note about an opportunity to meet with the pastor, if desired.
Family Support Initiative*
Looking for ways to support DCF-involved families during the pandemic, a few churches established the North Shore Foster Care Network. It has grown to 30+ local churches who fulfill requests from DCF social workers on behalf of their families, including many intact families experiencing extreme hardship during school and business closures. This initiative has strengthened relationships with DCF as they are able to request groceries, clothing, and other basics, purchased and delivered by church members and funded through the Special Collections Fund. Additionally, this fund supported the purchase of backpacks for the congregation to fill with school supplies for older youth in foster care.
Open Door Immigration Services*
We sponsored approximately three citizenship applications including the application cost as well as staff support. ODIS is a Salem-based nonprofit established by our partner church Highrock North Shore that fills a significant service gap in providing citizenship classes and immigration services to help families navigate the complex and expensive process of immigration. Immigrants are one of the populations most deeply impacted by the health crisis and job losses, leaving many unable to even afford the application cost. Citizenship can open new doors for employment, civic engagement, and other supports, making a lasting impact on the lives and livelihoods of immigrants and their families.
Elevate New England*
Elevate New England is a nonprofit serving youth in Lowell and Lawrence public schools where they aim to build long-term relationships with some of the most vulnerable youth to develop character, social emotional skills, and college/career success. Elevate was able to stipend a 17- year old rising senior at the Lowell Career Academy to do an internship. They were also able to provide free 2-week summer camp experiences for 20 incoming freshman and grocery store gift cards to needy families.
The Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, specifically for their work to strengthen black churches
The black community has been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 both in terms of virus transmission as well as job losses. The pandemic shone a light on these and other racial disparities. As much as ever, the black church is a pillar of strength and service to its community, representing a critical opportunity to direct support toward efforts that strengthen black churches in the Boston area. This gift to the ISBCE at GCTS is supporting initiatives such as The Boston Black Church Vitality Project.
Amirah is a nonprofit providing services to victims of human trafficking, including a safe-house located on the North Shore. Survivors of sex trafficking face many challenges, like PTSD, depression, anxiety, financial hardship and recovery from physical abuse. Amirah’s operations were impacted by the pandemic in ways similar to many nonprofits, including the temporary loss of volunteers whose efforts reduced the number of staff required to run programming. This gift has supported the organization’s operations as they continue to help survivors through the pandemic.
Written by Sarah Bartley