Reaching Out to the Community
First Congregational United Church of Christ is committed to strengthening and befriending the Wellington Heights neighborhood. We share our building with the Boys & Girls Club, where dozens of children gather every day after school and throughout the summer. We are partners with Johnson Elementary School of the Arts, located across the street. The church sponsors free cookouts for the neighborhood in the summer, and free meals at other times during the year.
In addition, the church is home to Café 361, a youth ministry program for girls in 6th through 8th grade. The girls gather with adult volunteers about 15 times during the school year to cook a meal for 50 guests. A delicious meal is at the center of this program, but the ministry primarily focuses on strengthening relationships, offering positive role models, bridging cultural and racial differences, building self-esteem and widening our view of the world.
During the summer of 2013, we planted our first community garden, an outreach project that involved about a dozen local partners. Produce from the Gather and Grow Friendship Garden was shared with the partner agencies and our neighbors.
Our Adult Education series often features guest speakers who address topics related to current events and other subjects of interest to those in our community.
Throughout the year, we organize special collections and participate in special projects as a way of partnering with local agencies and groups to improve our city and share God’s love., including:
Community Free Health Clinic: We collect clean, used prescription bottles for reuse by the clinic staff.
Linn County Child Development Center: Our Undie Sunday each February is a way for us to collect donations of children’s underwear.
Linn Community Food Bank program at First Presbyterian Church: We support the food bank with a special offering once a month and with groceries donated by our members.
Wellington House: We collect personal care products for clients.
Westover Manor: We partner with Hope United Church of Christ in Hiawatha to co-sponsor a Christmas party for residents of this senior housing center,
First Congregational also provides financial support to Helping Hands Ministry, a local non—profit agency that distributes funds and offers referrals to people in need, the Ecumenical Center, Community Health Free Clinic, Linn Community Food Bank, Willis Dady Men’s Shelter, Waypoint, Mission of Hope, and Family Promise of Linn County, and other local agencies and non-profits. Church members also are independently involved in community outreach through service to many established organizations, including Habitat for Humanity,Wellington Heights Neighborhood Association, Churches United, and Variety Club.