WHO WE ARE AND WHAT WE DO
The Outreach and Mission Board’s mission to reach beyond the four walls of Plymouth is integral to who we are as people of faith responding to God's call to create a new realm based on shalom –peace, justice, and wholeness. At the Board’s regular monthly meetings, we heard from representatives of the various organizations to which the Board donated funds, to hear more about what each organization does, the population it serves, and the use it makes of the funds Plymouth donates. The Board sponsored a Bread for the World Offering of Letters in March, helping members write letters to Colorado’s Congressional delegation in support of legislation to support U.S. and international food aid.
Each year the Board is responsible for dispensing Plymouth’s Outreach and Mission budget, which was $10,000 for 2016. On-going recipients of budgeted amounts include Catholic Charities ($600), HPI for the volunteers’ phone ($400), Interfaith Council ($2075), Sister Alice Murphy Center for Hope ($1500), One Village One Family ($1500), UCC Open and Affirming Coalition ($400), and Bread for the World ($300). Crisis Discretionary Funds were used to support UCC’s disaster fund to assist Haitian hurricane and earthquake relief ($1000). Outreach Discretionary Funds were used to support our own ministry teams’ activities and organizations: FFH ($500), McBackpack ($300), Alternative Giving Fair ($228.79), and International Hour for Peace ($100). We also made donations to the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado (providing a liberal Christian message on social issues such as immigration, gun control, and abortion)($100), Child Safe (treatment center for victims of child abuse)($200), Sexual Assault Victim Advocate (SAVA)(treatment center and hotline for adult victims of sexual assault)($286.17), the Boys and Girls Clubs of Larimer County (providing after school and vacation programs and mentoring support for children in need)($400), Spirit of the Sun (improving tribal economies and native communities on more than 20 reservations and in Denver)($400), Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network (representation of immigrants and children at the immigration detention facility in Aurora and the immigration courts in Denver and Aurora)($500), FoCo Café Summer Kids Program (meals and activities for children in need)($300); and Casa de Paz (provides temporary housing for families visiting detainees in the Aurora immigration detention facility)($200).
ENDOWMENT INCOME. The Board is also responsible for deciding how to spend the payout amount of the Endowment Fund designated for Outreach and Mission. This year that fund, which was $2518, was again given to Archway Housing & Services, Inc. Archway is a faith-based nonprofit affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Church of Christ, which helps build and support service-enriched (supportive) affordable housing for low to moderate income families. So far its seven housing communities are in the metro-Denver area, but the organization is looking to expand its program into the Fort Collins, which is part of the Conference area.
OUR BUSY MINISTRY TEAMS
The Alternative Giving Fair, under the leadership of Eva Wallace, included 13 vendors each of which support the work of ministry organizations in various countries. The Fair was held November 20 and raised over $13,000 for the participating organizations; it also partially opened on Saturday night, November 19, for those attending a concert in the sanctuary that night! Many Plymouth volunteers helped with the Fair this year.
Plymouth participated in the annual 3-mile long Fort Collins Crop Walk, under the leadership of Amy Zwahlen and her family, on a hot day in October. Crop Walk’s purpose is to call attention to the food needs of people in Fort Collins, the United States, and around the world, and to raise funds for Church World Service to combat hunger. Approximately 15 Plymouth members participated in the event and Plymouth members’ contributed approximately $1900, nearly $1000 more that Plymouth has contributed in the past. Church World Service contributed about 1⁄4 of the total funds raised to the Larimer County Food Bank; the rest went to various Church World Service national and international projects, such as feeding refugees and assisting poor villages in obtaining wells for good water.
Plymouth members and friends, through The Giving Tree project, under the leadership of Sara Myers and Joyce DeVaney, provided Christmas gifts to 65 children from 27 families recommended by La Familia/The Family Center and Bennett Elementary School, as well as hundreds of diapers and thousands of baby wipes to La Familia contributed by 25 additional families. The tree went up on November 20, and all the families were spoken for on the first Sunday.
Members of the Plymouth Bennett Elementary School Ministry Team, under the leadership of Mary Kay Graver and the Musci family, continue their involvement with the school by collecting enough school supplies during the month of August to fully outfit about 30 students, providing an appreciation breakfast on a fall in-service day to Bennett’s teachers (5 bakers fed 36 staff members), including Bennett families in the Giving Tree, and mentoring and tutoring students.
The Immigration Ministry Team, under the leadership of Linda Mahan, monitors immigration actions on a local, state, and national level, and provides opportunities for education and action for the congregation. The team sponsored a well-attended Sunday-afternoon film series on international migration in April and May; a forum session in June by Casa de Paz’s founder about this hospitality facility in Denver, conducted a four-week Adult Education class on selected topics in immigration, including refugee resettlement in Northern Colorado through Lutheran Family Services. It continues to keep its extensive mailing list informed about current immigration issues. In connection with the Casa de Paz and Lutheran Refugee Services speakers, Plymouth members generously contributed to drives for winter coats and various personal supplies.
The World Missions Ministry Team, under the leadership of Eileen Dornfest, was very active in 2016. Its members hosted two Ethiopian-themed dinners to raise funds for the Lango Kindergarten in Ethiopia. They sold Mother’s Day and Christmas cards to help support two students at Rawdat Al Zahir School in Rawdat, Palestine (Occupied Territories). Their table at the Alternative Giving Fair helped support both schools.
The Interfaith Council Ministry Team, under the leadership of Mary Kay Graver, continued to write an article for each month’s Placard about the activities of the Interfaith Council of Fort Collins, of which Plymouth and 27 other faith communities and 32 non-profit service entities are members. In addition to the grants distributed by IFC, IFC established a relationship with CSU to hold an Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner for both the campus and the larger community and a seminar on affordable housing with a distinguished panel. Plymouth hosted one of IFC’s monthly meetings in 2015. Plymouth member Rich Thompson retired as the President of IFC in 2015 and Plymouth member Laura Nelson will serve as the next IFC President. Plymouth members are welcome to attend any monthly meeting, each of which is focused on a social issue relevant to Larimer County.
The McBackpack Ministry Team continued to provide volunteers once a week to McBackpack’s weekend food bag program, a partnership among the program, the Poudre School District, and the Larimer County Food Bank. The program’s goal is to provide weekend food for children in need who are enrolled in the school district. The volunteers pack the weekend food bags on Thursdays and deliver them to the participating schools so the children can take the bags home from school on Fridays.
One Village One Family Ministry Team, under the leadership of Greg Rutherford, participates in a program started in 2014 by Fort Collins non-profit Homeless Gear, to support a homeless family to find housing and become self-sufficient. Plymouth’s Ministry Team’s members constitute one of the many “Villages” involved in the program in Fort Collins. The Plymouth Village’s successfully helped its family find permanent housing and supported the family during the year as needed.
Homeless Prevention Initiative Ministry Team, under the leadership of Joyce Devaney and Ruth Lieurance, screens calls and interviews HPI clients who need temporary help in preventing them from becoming homeless, engaging 4 screeners, 8 regular interviewers, and 2 Spanish interpreters at Plymouth. Plymouth is one of the program’s four interview sites. Plymouth’s team provided clients with assistance, including grants of up to $300, King Soopers gift cards, and referrals to appropriate support services available in Fort Collins. A subgroup of this ministry team is Fellowship for a Cause, a group of Plymouth members who meet bi-monthly to donate to HPI; the group raised #2375 for HPI. Grocery cards purchased by Plymouth members also support HPI. In 2016 HPI merged with Neighbor to Neighbor, another rental assistance program; and the two organizations will work together going forward.
Homeless Prevention Initiative Sleep Out Ministry Team, under the leadership of Bob Jeffrey, organized the annual vigil and sleep-out in the cold, to raise awareness of the presence of homelessness in Fort Collins, as well as to raise funds for HPI and gear for Homeless Gear. This year’s 12th annual vigil and sleep-out took place on December 3rd and raised over $13,000 for HPI. 60 people from various faith communities attended the vigil and 15 youth from Plymouth and 6 from Greeley UCC Church participated in the educational program at Plymouth and slept out in the cold in cardboard boxes. Additional volunteers are needed to plan next year’s Vigil and Sleep-out.
The Faith Family Hospitality Ministry Team, under the leadership of Scott Houser, helps families experiencing homelessness in Fort Collins. FFH provides temporary housing in participating host churches for four homeless families; volunteers clean and set up a room for each family, provide transportation, provide dinner, breakfast, and fellowship for the families each evening and morning, stay with the families overnight, and clean and pack up at the end of the week to deliver the supplies to the next host congregation. Eighty-four volunteers from Plymouth helped host four homeless families during 4 separate weeks, again teaming with Heart of the Rockies Christian Church. Plymouth hosted families at Plymouth for the first time in 2016, in January and July; and helped host families at Heart of the Rockies in April and October. Plymouth will host twice in 2017; and help at Heart of the Rockies for an additional two weeks.
The Meals at the Mission Ministry Team, under the leadership of Mary Freese, supplies volunteers to help prepare, serve, and cleanup after meals at Catholic Charities’ homeless shelter, The Mission. Plymouth provides 10 volunteers at three two-hour shifts for the noon meal the third Sunday of every other month; 41 Plymouth volunteers participated in 60 shifts.
The Outreach and Mission Board is grateful to the many Plymouth members and friends who participate in ministry teams, donate time and money, and encourage the outreach and mission of Plymouth Congregational UCC Church in Fort Collins and the world.
For emails and contacts for each of our Outreach and Mission Ministry Teams: Click Here!