One of the most valuable and important missions of St. Mary’s Church is its support of community and international programs. The work of the Outreach Commission has been part of the church’s history almost since its beginning, more than 45 years ago. Funding comes primarily from proceeds received from PennyWise Thrift Shop and other donations that designated for Outreach. The Outreach Commission is charged with considering all requests for assistance that are brought to its attention that meet the guidelines established by the Commission and the Vestry. The primary focus is on meeting local needs, addressing critical crises as they arise and funding for some international assistance. After appropriate due diligence, the Commission makes grant allocation recommendations and special requests to the Vestry, which has final approval for all funding distributions. In addition to the grant process, other donations are solicited, with Vestry approval, for special requests. The Commission also actively recruits volunteers to add their talent and time, which are greatly needed for several of the Outreach projects during the calendar year.
Grant Process & Recipients
The grant process requires that an organization submit its financial documents, mission statement, evidence of tax-exempt status and explanation of how they plan to use our grant. The Commission reviews the requests and decides how the funding budget will be distributed, pending availability of funds. In 2021, more than a dozen grants were approved for: food distribution and assistance, literacy programs, family welfare, child development; student tutoring and enrichment, international aid for remote villages in South America and India, and religious education.
New Horizons Super Kids Club – This faith-based program, a joint effort between New Horizons of SWFL and St. Mary’s, was started in August 2019 as a Super Kids Club. Thirty students from grades 1-5 in 3 local schools arrive Monday through Thursday of the academic year for assistance with homework and reading skills. Most are just learning English and many are academically challenged. An intense reading camp is held in June for the entire month. In early 2022, a lending library will be available for the students and located in a special section of the Parish Church Library. This was funded by a 2021 Diocesan Community Grant and a matching gift from a generous parishioner. The goal is to create excitement and interest in reading for enjoyment.
Harvest Time Ministries – During November through March, volunteers meet every other Friday at a local storage site and prepare 100 bags of groceries for a local community of migrant farm workers. On Saturday, volunteers gather again to deliver the groceries along with donated clothing and household goods.
Meals of Hope – Each Monday, Meals of Hope brings their refrigerated pantries-on-wheels to the church campus to distribute free food to residents of Lee County who need food assistance. Large numbers of people arrive each week for fresh produce, protein items and staples. Church volunteers help with this distribution throughout the year.
Food Drives – Two annual food drives are held each year, where more than 100 bags of food are collected from church members. In November, Harvest Time Ministries is the beneficiary and in March, Café of Life receives the food donations.
Kindness for Kids – This special Advent-Christmas project focuses on the children and parents in all the non-profit organizations supported by St. Mary’s Church during the year. They are from the migrant community, the Super Kids Club students, and three of the other grant-funded residential programs. Each child receives a gift of their choice and an age-appropriate book. Parents receive food assistance based on family size.
The Outreach Commission is always in need of volunteers throughout the year in our various programs. Contact Annette Leahy-Judkins, Outreach Commission Chair at [email protected]