After CHHSM Vice President and CEO Michael J. Readinger’s column on the UCC’s “3 Great Loves” initiative, Susan Sinderson, executive vice president of the United Church of Christ’s Embrace Living Communities, responded with this article:
Rev. John Dorhauer has invited us as a Health and Human services ministry as part of the UCC to respond and celebrate our organization’s “love for children,” “love for neighbors,” and “love for the earth.” He asks us to make two commitments to this initiative; first, planning how we will answer the call to this initiative by reviewing how our organization will respond to the needs of children and to the suffering of our neighbors, challenging us to look beyond our stated mission “to provide actively aging adults affordable, welcoming homes in communities that embrace living”, and to answer the call to be good stewards of God’s creation through sustainable practices. Second, he is asking us to commit to find a way to tell these stories to the rest of the denomination and in doing with this creating a connection and sense of shared purpose between all of us.
During the first part of 2017 we have responded to this call in a number of ways. We have responded to our “LOVE OF CHILDREN” by taking part in the ” blue ribbon project” in Du Page county. The residents and employees of Peace Memorial Manor worked together to elevate awareness of child abuse by placing large blue ribbons on the trees around their community and participated in information sessions about child abuse. As a result, several residents are now volunteering with the program on a regular basis.
We are responding to the “LOVE OF NEIGHBORS” and LOVE OF EARTH” by participating in a service project connected with this year’s General Synod. Our employees and residents are working together to create “ugly quilts” (sleeping bags) for homeless persons in Baltimore the host city of the General Synod. Following a prescribed method of creating the sleeping bags, we collected gently used blankets, men’s ties and belts, yarn and material from employees and residents. These items were recycled to be used to create a sleeping bag that can easily be carried by those who do not have a permanent home. Our housing community residents in IL and FL worked tirelessly to sew the bags and were able to create seven to send to Baltimore. Each community put their own special touch on the bags they made. Some of the residents prayed together for the recipient of the bag as they completed the final stitches, some created a prayer that was tucked inside the bag and signed by the people that worked on it and others decided to include a surprise pillow and some sundries inside the bag! The bags were definitely a labor of love for both residents and employees.
Once the project was complete at Greencastle of Bayonet Point in Florida, the group that had formed felt that there was a lot more that they do to help their neighbors and now meet regularly to use their sewing skills to help out other local charities.
Another way we are responding to our LOVE OR THE EARTH is through our commitment to expanding our gardening programs at each one of our communities. The number of raised beds built at our communities continues to grow each year, not only giving our residents a chance to “dig in the dirt” and grow vegetables that are too expensive for many residents to buy in the store but also we are sharing our experiences with other housing providers and encouraging them to start their own gardening programs.
The overarching mission of this initiative is to show the world that these “THREE GREAT LOVES” can change the world in a positive way. We are proud of the small part we doing to make the world a more caring place!