Pastor Rob Dyer and the members of First United Presbyterian Church of Belleville wanted a way to support families in their community who are going through a tough time.
“We want to be part of the real transformation – not a temporary, quick fix,” says Pastor Rob Dyer, First Presbyterian’s senior pastor.
The pastor and members of the church launched a program called Needs Among Us, a community support program that has grown even more important in Belleville and surrounding communities since the beginning of the pandemic.
Needs Among Us started in the church several years ago, asking if, aside from prayer, there was anything the congregation could do to help a congregant in need. When a church member had a need to be met, they anonymously place it in a basket, and a church committee would discuss the need and meet it.
Children’s Home & Aid and the church recognized the potential power of their work together.
“We work with dozens of families in the tri-cities area, providing educational, social and emotional help and resources for basic needs,” says Sherri O’Toole, supervisor of our Stronger Beginnings for Families program. “However, there are needs our families have that we are not able to meet, including rent support, home furnishing and transportation. Now my staff and I can submit these requests to the generous friends who run the Needs Among Us program.”
“Jena,” a client within our Stronger Beginnings for Families program, is a certified nursing assistant, and a very essential worker in these times of COVID-19. She was spending an increasing amount of time and money on repairs for her car, which was needed for transportation to her job at the hospital. The congregation members went above and beyond – they not only gifted her with a vehicle, but also furniture for her apartment.
There are up to 48 families receiving help from the church year-round. Help includes mentoring, assistance with yard work, walking buddies, financial assistance, and more. The congregation has even sent a family on a trip to meet a specialist doctor, due to a rare condition of their child, among many other things.
The congregation makes it a point to work with the caseworkers of these families as well.
“We also focus on the caseworkers; they need to be taken care of and supported too,” says Pastor Rob. “When we help them, we help the families.” Program Coordinator Bob Jensen says they aim to focus on how they can create a household for those in need.
During the recent pandemic, the needs among our children and families have grown – and the congregation has again stepped up. The First United Presbyterian Church recently raised $15,000, which they would like to go directly to families impacted by the pandemic.
Although this program has grown immensely since its start, Pastor Rob says he has no plans to slow down. “We want to grow this as much as possible. I don’t see any reason to limit this,” he says.