A year ago, the cupboard at Sarah's Kitchen at First UMC, Port St. Lucie, was nearly bare. But a $2,000 Lockmiller grant to the church filled the shelves with food to feed dozens of needy families.
The timely grant also aided two more missions at First UMC: Sarah's Closet and an emergency food pantry. The efforts are named for Abraham’s wife, Sarah, in the Bible.
A $2,000 Lockmiller grant to First UMC, Port St. Lucie, and its ministry at Sarah's Kitchen helped ensure that volunteers had plenty of food to serve to families in need last year. Photo from Sarah's Kitchen.
"It helped us greatly in a time of money-crunching budgets to be able to continue the program," says Rev. Josias Andujar, a pastor at First UMC's Hispanic ministry. "It just came at the perfect time."
Each year, churches such as First UMC rely on Lockmiller awards to enhance the outreach of missions that focus on at-risk children and families. Cash incentives up to $2,000 are awarded from a charitable trust established to honor the legacy of businesswoman and philanthropist Alice W. Lockmiller. The Florida Conference Global Missions and Justice Committee oversees the program.
The deadline this year to apply for a Lockmiller grant is March 15. The four-member committee will have $25,000 to award, and grant recipients are expected to be announced in April.
The principal focus of the grants is on aiding children in poverty, says Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans, the conference Missional Engagement director.
Committee members will review applications based on "the scope of the program, the number of people served and how closely the program matches the vision for the Lockmiller grants," he says.
Lockmiller was a lifelong Methodist who gave generously to many causes and missions. She died in 2007. One of her charitable recipients was the Florida Partnership to End Childhood Hunger.
Campbell-Evans is in his second year as missional director for the conference but has been involved in anti-poverty missions for many years. He serves on the board of the nonprofit Florida Impact, a lead partner of the Florida Partnership.
What: Mini-grants for church ministry
"I'm just grateful that Dr. Lockmiller had the vision to try and reach out to enable churches to make a significant difference for children who live in food deserts," Campbell-Evans says.
"The fact that these church programs provide a nutritional bridge to children has been an inspiration to me."
Last year, grants of $2,000 were given to each of 10 churches for summer feeding programs, backpack programs, day care supplies, education enrichment, parenting skills education and physical recreation.
Among recipients were First UMC, Bonita Springs, for summer camp supplies and transportation, and Joining Hands Mission Church, Holiday, for family transportation.
The committee set a goal of trying to give financial help to each church that applied.
"I don't know that that will happen every year," Campbell-Evans says. "But we welcome any application and depending on how many we get, we'll have to make some decisions then."
Andujar says the Lockmiller grant was a lifeline to all three of the Port St. Lucie church's missions, including its emergency food pantry.
"It really is an important program for the community," he says. "We're the only food pantry within a 10-mile radius. We've got a lot of need."
And, without the funds from last year, people who counted on a hot meal at the church's soup kitchen could not have been fed, Andujar says.
"The funds helped us get back to the numbers we had."
First UMC, Port St. Lucie, is one of six interfaith churches serving daily meals as part of the nonprofit Sarah's Kitchen Inc. Sarah's Kitchen at First UMC works in partnership with Sarah's Closet.
About five years ago, a youth ministry group traveled to Alabama to help at a clothes closet that served adults and children.
Back home, the group decided to operate Sarah's Closet to help the children who are fed at the soup kitchen.
The mission began with seed money from a $1,000 grant from Youthworks, says Pam Szymczyk, First UMC's youth director. Children can pick out five outfits once a month and also receive clothes at Christmas and before the start of school.
Schools in the area require uniforms, and Szymczyk says many families struggle to buy what is needed. About 50 students also received backpacks filled with school supplies.
Grants such as those from the Lockmiller trust make all the difference to the church and the community, she says. "Everyone is struggling now."
For guidelines and application information, visit www.flumc2.org/pages/detail/1422 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Kathy Steele is a freelance writer based in Tampa.