Opportunities to Help
The Social Action and Awareness Commission has received a range of ideas from various people and organizations about how First Church members and friends can help during this difficult time of COVID-19. We have compiled many of the ideas in this list. We hope it is an easy and accessible way of sorting through the opportunities and deciding where you want to donate your time and/or money to help.
Take Action to Support Sasha Bruce Youthwork, our partner in the Drop-In Center: Sasha Bruce’s Drop-In Center team is immersed in life-saving work at their 8th Street Drop-In site every day. First Church can support this work by providing the following:
1) Tote Bags – for the many “to go” bags being distributed. They are completely out at this point and using trash bags as a substitute.
2) Handmade Masks – They have three boxes of the disposable masks. Washable ones which can be used more than once would be a welcome substitute.
3) Notes of Encouragement – Notes are being hung on the stairwell so as folks enter and leave they know they are surrounded by love and prayers throughout the community.
4) Gift Cards – This has been the easiest way to get assistance to folks who ask for help with a variety of needs. From using a Visa gift card to help an unemployed young person pay a phone bill so they can stay connected and online to Insta-carting pampers to a mom in need, having a stock of Visa cards on hand to meet needs as they arise would be welcome.
5) Metro Cards – for folks who do still have to get to work and those who may have lost income but still need to get around to meet basic needs.
If you are able to provide any of these items, you can ship them directly to Sasha Bruce Youthwork or drop them off at 741 8th St. SE in Washington DC. If you plan to drop off, please call the office to make arrangements at 202-675-9340.
Seabury Resources for Aging would love it if we could send cards or artwork to their residents at Springvale Terrace. Springvale Terrace is a residence for seniors with 146 apartments, including 36 units in assisted living. It had its beginnings in First Church. Springvale was incorporated in 1926, but the first bequest that led to its establishment came earlier than that. The administration of the home was the responsibility of four of the Congregational churches in the District, although, in fact, First Church bore primary responsibility until 1959. In 2009 the administration of the home was transferred to a new entity, Seabury Senior Living, which also has responsibility for Friendship Terrace in Tenleytown and several other properties that provide affordable services to elders in our community.
The residents are frustrated by the current lockdown. They are accustomed (as we all are) to being together. Seabury suggests notes of friendship and encouragement as appropriate. Artwork is also welcomed. (Have any Sunday Schoolers stuck at home?) Due to privacy concerns, we do not give out residents’ names. However, they suggest that if you wish to provide your name and return address, Springvale residents may write you back. (The residents are free to divulge their name, age, bio, etc., where we cannot.) They will call this effort “Project Easter.” The front office at Springvale Terrace will distribute among the residents any mail addressed as follows:
c/o Seabury at Springvale Terrace
8505 Springvale Road
Silver Spring, MD 20910
The Table Church, one of the shared users of our space, has a page on its website to sign up volunteers generally. Go to The Table Church’s website https://thetablechurchdc.org/coronavirus-assistance to sign up as a volunteer. Volunteers give name, the DC neighborhood they live in, availability, etc. The Table Church will then tell you about opportunities that make sense for you.
Washington Interfaith Network (WIN) recommends two efforts:
Phone Banking Seniors and Vulnerable Families: WIN’s organizing begins with listening. Accordingly, they want to listen to our community members by remotely phone banking. They are working with residential buildings where they are in relationship to make calls to seniors and vulnerable families to provide connection and support and ensure that people are aware of the resources that DC is providing at this time. If you would like to give your time phone banking, WIN will provide a short training and a draft script and assign you the number of people you request to call. Please email: Alison@windc-iaf.org if you have any questions or are interested in participating.
Fundraiser: Supporting the Ward 2 Community. WIN’s organizing in Ward 2 has led to relationships with residents at Judiciary House public housing and parents from Thomson Elementary School. With schools shut down, many sources of income impacted, and trips outside the house discouraged (especially for seniors), we have received requests from seniors and families who want to stock up on food. Although meal sites offer prepared meals for school children, they do not offer items that families and seniors can use to stock their pantries and cook for themselves. Donations to this fundraiser will go entirely to purchasing grocery items requested by Thomson Elementary School families and Ward 2 seniors: https://secure.everyaction.com/3L_OQkEmHUixHvOCwLwAIw2
The DC Mutual Aid Network and Facebook group is a grassroots community-led effort looking to take care of each other and keep our city as safe as possible. To locate current efforts across the city, find help, or find out how to plug in, this spreadsheet is your first stop: bit.ly/dcmutualaidspreadsheet.
Congregation Action Network (CAN) which supports immigrant families.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to swirl around us all and within some of us, we try to remain present to the needs of others. Imagine what it would mean to live the words of Martin Buber and meet the world with the fullness of our being.
With that in mind, the CAN has instituted a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This is a CAN fundraising effort to support immigrant families identified by faith communities across the DMV who don’t qualify for local, state, or federal support, and for those who are being pushed even deeper into the shadows with few resources available to meet their immediate needs. Funds will be used to replace income and pay for immediate health expenses, rent, groceries, utilities, tuition, and work authorizations. An immigrant-led team, composed of leaders within seven or so of the most heavily impacted congregations, have set criteria upon which funding allocations will be made.
Tax-deductible online donations to the CAN COVID-19 Emergency Fund will go to a Faith in Action giving platform and will be sent via PayPal to an account hosted by CAN member Temple Sinai. Temple Sinai has generously offered to collect and hold the funds on CAN’s behalf until they are disbursed. (Donation receipts will come from Temple Sinai.) All funds collected will go directly to our congregations to support those most affected by this crisis.
2020 is an important election year. The UCC’s election-focused initiative is called Faith & Democracy 2020. It can be reached through the UCC’s Justice + Witness Action Network (www.letjustice.org ). The emphasis of Faith & Democracy 2020 is on voter registration, 2020 census, voter education and empowerment, Get Out The Vote.
Bread for the City. May 5, 2020, will be a special #GivingTuesday/Do More 24: a day to celebrate and support nonprofits across the country who have been going the extra mile in response to the pandemic. But May 5 isn’t the only opportunity to partner with them: stay connected during this time of social distancing, and raise funds for our emergency response services by joining their new peer-to-peer campaign, an opportunity to help community members while staying connected with friends and family. It can be a service project for a teenager in your life, or a bored child who wants to get creative. Be an EveryDay Hero to help raise money for our COVID-19 Response Fund.
Downtown Day Services Center at NY Avenue Presbyterian Church offers services to individuals experiencing homelessness. https://www.downtowndc.org/program/the-center/
Capital Area Food Bank. Donate or volunteer. The Washington Post reports that the most pressing need is for financial contributions, which will be used to purchase food in bulk. https://capitalareafoodbank.org/donate. The need for volunteers is limited, because only a small number of volunteers can work in their warehouse while maintaining social distancing. But many local distribution sites need volunteers to package and hand out food. To inquire about volunteer needs in your neighborhood, call any of the churches or non-profit groups listed under “Community Hub Partners” at https://capitalareafoodbank.org/covid19response.
So Others Might Eat. Donate or volunteer https://www.some.org/news-events/newsblog/some-response-covid-19
DC Central Kitchen. Donate. They have the suspended volunteer program until April 27.
Miriam’s Kitchen. Donate to their Emergency Flex Fund.