UCC Congregation, CHAMP Homes Partner to Support Homeless

Early this spring, the Rev. John Terry of the Federated Church, UCC, in Hyannis, Mass, received a phone call from the Rev. Guillermo Marquez-Sterling, associate minister for program development, at Pass-A-Grille Beach Community UCC near St. Petersburg, Fla., inquiring about opportunities on Cape Cod where his church members could engage in mission work near UCC-related Craigville Conference Center.

Terry, who happens to be on the board of directors for UCC-related CHAMP Homes Inc., a CHHSM-member organization that offers interim housing and support programs for the homeless, said he knew exactly the right place where volunteers could spend a week doing some good work at the beginning of September.

After reaching out to CHAMP Homes Executive Director Beth Wade, the Pass-a-Grille church group made arrangements and arrived on Labor Day just as Tropical Storm Hermine also was arriving on Massachusetts’ outer shores, the first major rainfall that Cape Cod had received all summer.

Plans to meet with Wade and others to hear about CHAMP Homes’ origin and programs were scuttled as Wade attempted to drive in from the outer Cape, dodging broken tree limbs and flying mailboxes.

Delayed for just a day, the group eventually arrived at the CHAMP Homes Campus on Tuesday, Sept. 6, with some members going off to volunteer with other local organizations, including the Salvation Army and The Baby Center, a ministry of the Cape Cod Council of Churches. The remaining Pass-A-Grille members stayed on campus where the original plans to paint the outside of the main building, The O’Neill House, were put on hold as the weather forecasts continued to include heavy rain.

Plan “B” went into effect, as the rain held off, and windows were replaced, interior rooms were painted and gardening was undertaken.  Each day the volunteers worked along-side CHAMP Homes’ staff and residents and, every day at lunch, the volunteers were treated to meals prepared by CHAMP’s resident cooks. By the end of the week, the whole team was brought together to work on the exterior painting.

Dan Stowers, who is heavily involved with Habitat for Humanity in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area, said he came all the way to CHAMP Homes because he wanted to meet new people and be in a new location while doing work to give back.

Carol Bento, who grew up in Massachusetts and vacationed on Cape Cod often, said she never knew there was a homeless population on Cape Cod.

Shari Ellis, likewise, said she did not know what needs existed in Hyannis until she arrived.  As she got to know the residents and staff at CHAMP Homes, she found that “there is a joy here” that she had not experienced at other places where she had volunteered in the past.

The work done by these volunteers was invaluable to CHAMP Homes Inc. as they saved the non-profit organization valuable resources by doing work that, otherwise, would have cost money to complete.

“It was wonderful to see these volunteers come together with our residents working together and sharing laughter with work,” Wade said, adding that having the volunteers at CHAMP Homes was a wonderful opportunity for a UCC congregation and UCC human service organization to connect through service to others.

“This experience of our residents and these volunteers coming together to work side-by-side is a great example of our belief in building bridges and breaking down barriers as we do God’s work,” Wade said.

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