The first harvest is in at Bethlehem House of Bread
The first harvest is in at Bethlehem House of Bread and word is getting out quickly.
In February 2013, Metzger UMC and Tigard UMC voted to merge into one church with two campuses. The Metzger campus has become the home for a new ministry called Bethlehem House of Bread. Bethlehem’s mission is to feed those who are hungry in body or spirit. Since the merger we are often asked, “So what’s happening at Bethlehem now?”
The merger was to officially take place on July 1st , but things actually started happening before that. In the midst of some of the transition tasks in April, a few of the Metzger folks came to the transition team and said they would really love to see something new happen right away. Knowing that part of our vision for Bethlehem HOB included creating a community garden in the spring of 2014 they wondered - would we reconsider and start the community garden this year? Through a near miracle of the right leadership, funding, and lots of hard working volunteers coming together - we somehow pulled it off. Twenty raised beds were built and rented to gardeners and four other areas of the garden designated as food pantry beds were planted, tended and harvested by volunteers. At the end of harvest we calculated that over 500 lbs. of produce from these pantry beds were distributed to hungry people.
Somehow seeing the vision literally beginning to grow into a reality helped us to build trust and excitement and form many relationships and partnerships with people in the neighborhood and individuals and groups in the larger community. These new relationships might not have happened as quickly had we waited until next year to start the garden.
We found that once we started doing things on the property that were new and exciting, word got out quickly. More and more people wanted to get involved in the new thing. We can only smile as we watch our volunteer list growing with the names of people of all ages and from all walks of life. The exciting part is that 75% of our volunteers are people who come to us from beyond our church walls - garden bed renters, Supa Fresh Youth Farm crew, Jeff Lowery’s L.A.S.T. groups, individuals and groups from the community (such as Scouts, volunteers from other food pantries, teachers, retired educators, friends, etc.)
All of our volunteers bring a variety of gifts, talents and the energy to the table. We are discovering that our end results are richer, stronger and more creative when we involve such a large and diverse pool of people. At BHOB we are trying to live out a quote attributed to Mother Teresa: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”
Our leadership team - which also includes folks from the larger community - continues to grow. We are working to develop a well rounded team of leaders who as a group will have the gifts of vision, attention to detail, passion for the cause, openness to the Spirit and a willingness to work in the midst of change and chaos.
In addition to the community garden, the following projects have either been completed or are underway at BHOB: continuing and enlarging the backpack project relationship with Metzger Elementary School that MUMC established a few years ago, painting the exterior of the building (including decking), painting the interior of the buildings, and other interior improvements such as replacement of some floor coverings, new hallway lights, new windows in classroom doors, and replacement of ceiling tiles as needed.
Our newest piece of the ministry is a food pantry. Our plan is to open the pantry on November 24th. It will be open on Sunday afternoons from 1-3p.m. There are no other pantries in the area that are open on Sunday and very few open on Saturday. We hope this will help meet the needs of those aren’t able to visit a pantry during the week. Soon we also hope to be able to offer our volunteers and eventually pantry shoppers a soup and bread lunch before the pantry opens each Sunday.
As far as stocking the food pantry Gerry and Dottie Edy, Cascadia District Hunger Coordinators, recently delivered a huge shipment of non-perishable food items. TUMC youth held a neighborhood food drive for Bethlehem and gathered over 1600 pounds of food for the pantry.
Seven other groups will be holding food drives for Bethlehem in the next two months. We are grateful for all this grass roots support!
We have been in conversation with Oregon Food Bank and will soon be full partners with them. In the meantime, the site has been approved for Oregon Food Bank sponsored Seed to Supper gardening classes and Cooking Matters nutrition and cooking classes. These classes will be held at Bethlehem after the first of the year. A variety of other classes and workshops on nutrition, wellness, parenting, and the arts are in the planning stages.
Basic insurance and utilities costs for BHOB are paid for by rental and room use fees. Other funding is being sought in a number of ways. We successfully wrote grant proposals to both the Cascadia District Church Extension Society and the Columbia District Church Extension Society. We were blessed in that each group generously awarded us a $15,000 grant. Other sources of funding such as grants, fundraising events and direct donations are being sought for further building improvements and for program and salary costs.
Even though we have just barely started the ministries at Bethlehem – we are beginning to have positive effects on peoples’ lives. Here’s just one example of what someone new to the area said about his experience at Bethlehem:
“Last spring, when we heard about the community garden, we responded quickly and the experience has been totally wonderful. Not only have we enjoyed growing vegetables this year, but we have also grown a number of new acquaintances. So, in our opinion, this was a wonderful experience and we can’t wait to continue doing it. The community garden also gave us a wonderful opportunity to introduce our three grandchildren to gardening.”
If you feel called to volunteer and/or donate food or money to Bethlehem, contact Linda Dove, BHOB’s pastoral director, at email@example.com.
If you want to continue following the Bethlehem story on facebook, go to www.facebook.com/bethlehemtumc and “like” us.