After Looting Temporarily Closes Stores, Chicago Church Serves Up a Lifeline

The looting that followed the George Floyd protests devastated some Chicago neighborhoods, leaving residents there even more desperate for basic services during the pandemic. 

In early June, on Chicago’s Southside where the Goshen [Seventh-day Adventist] Church is located, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, and several retail stores were wiped clean of merchandise, and in some instances the buildings sustained major damage. The church is in one of the poorest areas in the city, which had already seen a surge in COVID-19 infections and an elevated rate of gun violence. 

When reports streamed in of residents pleading for help in the midst of the dueling crises, the church leadership knew they had to do something. But what could they do?  

Soon thereafter word came from members that they had no place to purchase food and that’s when plans to organize a food drive kicked into gear. 

“In light of everything that was happening around us,” said Pastor Gordon Fraser, “we wanted to be a part of the solution, to show the love of Christ by extending a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in need.”

Kristine Fraser.

Goshen Church Elder, Lorian Willis, along with her daughter, Stacey True, have spear-headed the effort to collect and distribute food and other essentials. They are grateful for the support of North Shore, Northbrook, Hinsdale Fil-Am, Beverly Hills, and Bolingbrook churches, as well as generous financial support from the Illinois Conference and Lake Union. They also partnered with other Chicago organizations to provide over 100 hot meals each week. 

The area churches began collecting items such as fresh produce, diapers, wipes, baby formula, baby food, and canned goods. Stacey True said that she is excited to receive the donations and is now also planning to extend the services through an upcoming Community Baby Shower for single parents and families in need.  

The community’s response has been extraordinary. Two young ladies, Tasha Major and Kristen Heaphy, happened to find out about the church’s effort through social media and are now excited to help. Every week they collect donations from their friends and family and help with distribution. Another resident, Jessica, stopped by to receive a food basket and was “drawn in by the love and fellowship of the members that were serving that day.” She, too, has been volunteering every week since. One community member sent a text after receiving the food basket with baby formula and diapers that said, “Because of YOU and what you are doing, my babies were able to eat. Thank you so much!” She had no idea how she was going to get food for her children that very day.  

Although the church has not yet reopened since the governor ordered mandatory lockdowns in March, this hasn’t stopped ministry from going forward. People who are receiving the essential items are asking about the church’s reopening plans so they can visit. “We have had a couple of people ask for Bible studies, even while our church doors are still closed,” said Fraser. “We know that we are the church and not the building. We are seeing God move in the lives of the people in the community by drawing them in, and just [by us] showing them the love of Jesus.” 

Tasha Major and Kristen Heaphy happened to find out about the church’s effort through social media and are now excited to help. Every week they collect donations from their friends and family and help with distribution. “Even while masked and socially distanced as best we can,” says Goshen member Kristine Fraser, “to see the smiles on the faces of the families that come to the church is such a blessing.” Photo credit: Casey Adams

 

This article was written by Kristine Walker-Fraser, a Berrien Springs-based freelance writer and member of Goshen Church. The article was originally published by the Lake Union Herald, the official publication of the Lake Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It is reprinted here with permission.

Main image: Goshen Pastor Gordon Fraser promotes the food giveaway. All images courtesy of the Lake Union Herald.

 

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10602
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“Food Banks” should be a regular service to the community by most Seventh-day Adventist Churches. It should not be an intervention after or in the midst of crisis except to enlarge the services provided. The Carmichael Seventh-day Adventist church, in the County of Sacramento, California, on a weekly basis, provides food boxes to individuals and families. My daughter-in-law Andrea, teenage grandchildren Andrew and Amanda, every week donate their time and energies to filling and distributing boxes of food. My son Mark, depending on his work schedule, also joins his family in this worthy endeavor.

I had been working with families in the Watts section of Los Angeles when the riots occurred there in August 1965. One of the saddest aftermaths of the riots was the closing of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on the west side of Compton Avenue (not Compton Blvd.) and 111th Street, north of Imperial Boulevard, and within a block of the Nickerson Gardens Housing Project.

Our church families need to extend their help to the community, as this fine article demonstrates, rather than withdrawing as they did in Watts in 1965.

Walter H. Wheeler, M.S., Licensed Educational Psychologist #372, Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist #2405, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, #934

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