It started out simple – the sight of a child at a local elementary school getting out in the cold without a coat or mittens.
Ten years after a congregant at North Ridge Church spotted that child, a program called Deliver Hope, which provides gifts and everyday resources to struggling local families, has grown to 320 kids and now involves two other churches, Cornerstone Community Church and Faith Fellowship.
“Deliver Hope is an opportunity for our communities, as well as our church families, to provide a physical, emotional, and spiritual opportunities and needs that families have over the Christmas season,” said Pastor Beth Zarnke, North Ridge Church.
Tags with a wishlist are hung on a wall inside the church for the 120 families who benefit from the program. A list might include children’s Christmas gifts, clothing, and food or gas cards.
Two years ago, the program expanded to include personal care packages after school counselors identified the need for hygiene items.
“That was a really easy opportunity for us to help. Each includes laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, soaps, toothbrush, toothpaste – all those different types of things we might take for granted,” Zarnke said. “They may seem practical, but they’re absolutely life-giving to the family because they can be expensive, and we know that when you’re in stressful situations at home, you just drop those things that you don’t see as priorities.”
Through the program, the churches aim to provide encouragement and support to families in need, whether the challenges they face are temporary or long-term.
“Individuals can feel as families that they’re supported in our community, as well as taking a little bit of the stress off of a potentially stressful holiday when there isn’t enough money to go around,” said Zarnke. “We’re here as a family to help them.”
Anyone who’d like to help is welcome to drop by the church and take a tag. Families receive their gifts on distribution night, December 14.
“It’s an opportunity for us to talk with each of the family members if they desire, if we want to pray with them, talk about what their stressors are going on in life, and what type of resources we could provide to them that may or may not involve church, but may be more community or social service opportunities,” she said.
Contact 715-387-6111 or email [email protected] with any questions, or Faith Fellowship and Cornerstone Community Church.
“Our doors are always open,” Zarnke said.