Adaptability and Support: Two Keys to United Church Outreach Ministry’s Success

Pantry Coordinator Katie packs peaches.

In the past year and a half COVID-19 has forced CHHSM member United Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM) in Wyoming, Mich., to make many programmatic changes. Some programs have been put on hold, some have grown or been added, and almost all have been modified. One program that has changed for the better is UCOM’s Farm Stand on the Road.

Prior to the pandemic, Farm Stand on the Road was a chance for UCOM to bring fresh and local produce to local neighbors that struggle with transportation at two nearby apartment complexes. Once a month during the summer growing season, the week’s farm stand produce would be packed into a vehicle and taken to our partners for an hour or two of on-site shopping.

When COVID-19 forced UCOM to reexamine the safety of being with larger groups in enclosed spaces, UCOM did what UCOM does best — it adapted to fit the need. Instead of bringing ALL of the produce to its neighbors, UCOM gave them a list ahead of time and allowed them to order and get what they needed, which achieved the goal while limiting in-person contact.

Volunteer Nancy weighs potatoes.

This brought all sorts of new challenges. Who would organize the produce? When would it be packed? Who exactly was going to do that packing? Thankfully, UCOM staff and volunteers were up to the task and ready and willing to meet the need.

On a recent Farm Stand on the Road packing day, UCOM’s tables overflowed with such fruits and vegetables as tomatoes, melons, potatoes, broccoli, peaches, lettuce, and much more. The volunteers were especially moved by the bounty they packed and by Pantry Coordinator Katie’s stories of the gratefulness and excitement of UCOM’s neighbors upon receiving their orders.

This work is only possible because of the support UCOM receives. Whether a person is a financial donor, a volunteer, a vocal cheerleader, or all of the above, UCOM exists because of that support. In sharing personal abundance with UCOM, supporters are sharing it with UCOM’s neighbors, “and for that we are tremendously grateful,” says Bruce Roller, executive director.

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