Ten ways the Upper Sand Mountain Parish serves its community
by Rev. James “Woody” Woodin, Executive Director of the Upper Sand Mountain Parish (USMP)
“And are we yet alive?” The answer is a resounding "YES!" at the Upper Sand Mountain Parish.
Here are ten ways USMP, and its partners throughout the North Alabama Conference, are serving the people of Upper Sand Mountain plateau.
Emergency Services is the front lines of our battle against the deep need of the residents of Upper Sand Mountain. We offer much needed resources including food, clothing, some utility assistance, propane for heating, as well as offering spiritual guidance and prayer by one of our Pastors. We offer these services from 9-11am Monday thru Thursday, and from 3-5pm on Tuesday afternoon. In 2016, as of the end of October we have served 6,623 souls through the Emergency Services ministry setting. We have been blessed to be able to offer 81,992 food points (1 food point = $1+ worth of food), and $10,644.42 worth of Utility, heating gas, and/or clothing assistance. It is important to note that our Food Pantry is an “Emergency Food Bank” which means while we offer you enough food points to allow you to shop for enough food to provide good nutrition for a week, you can only receive food from us a maximum of 4 times a year.
“Manna on the Mountain” is our weekend meal program for elementary age children. We partner with 6 elementary schools on the plateau to be able to provide food to the children they tell us would be at risk of hunger over the weekend without our bags of food. Each bag of food we send to the school for each child has 2 single-serve cereal boxes, 2 nonperishable 1% milks cartons, 2 fruit cups (apple sauce at present), 2 peanut butter and jelly granola bars, 2 pop top canned meals (macaroni o’s at present), and 2 boxes of raisins. The bags are delivered each week to the school by volunteers and issued to the students by the faculty. At present levels we are packing 608 bags every four-Friday month. This means we need 1216 of every item I listed to go into the bags every month throughout the school year.
Through the gracious donations of the North Alabama United Methodist Women's school supply drive last summer, we were able to provide school supplies to over 250 families this fall and we are still receiving a trickle of supplies that we are offering to school resource person for distribution at their discretion.
Through our four “Better Way Shoppes” and their support staff, we are able to provide employment opportunities to persons who might find it difficult to find employment. We presently have 19 full and part-time employees receiving income through these employment opportunities.
Three of our part-time staff members are adults with special needs who we invite out of the “invisible community” and into ours. We have named this disABILITIES ministry our “Safe Sanctuary Workshop”.
We offer short and long term Mission Service Team opportunities here at the Upper Sand Mountain Parish. In 2016 we have been blessed to host Mission Teams from; Saint Paul UMC in Boaz Al., Helena UMC in Helena, Al., Southport UMC in Indianapolis, Indiana, Christ Central UMC in Rainbow City, Al., North Broadway UMC in Columbus, Ohio, Hokes Bluff UMC, Hokes Bluff, Al., F.U.E.L. which is a 40 family Christian Homeschool COOP, Aldersgate UMC in Slidell, La., Scottsboro FUMC in Scottsboro,, Al., Redwine UMC in Gainesville, Ga., Albertville FUMC in Albertville, Al., and Mountain View Christian Academy in Bryant, Al.. These groups served alongside the staff and volunteers of the USMP to minister to the under-resourced residents of the Upper Sand Mountain Plateau in a variety of ways.
We also partnered with the Little River Canyon National Park in a missionary clean-up effort almost every week this summer with volunteer mission teams hiking into the canyon at Martha’s Falls and hiking out with large garbage sacks of litter.
So far in 2016 we have been able to ship over 80,000 pounds of mixed clothing to underdeveloped parts of the world.
Since the vision of the Heart and Hand Home ministry was realized, the Upper Sand Mountain Parish, with the help of its mission partners, has built 48 houses on at least half acre lots and offered to sell the homes and lot to under-resourced families with children for the cost of material alone, and interest free. The goal of this ministry is to break the bondage of generational poverty by mentoring these families into home ownership allowing them to become less transient and thereby affording their children a better chance at an education. To date 28 of the houses have been completed paid for and deeded to the families. We are still in the process of working with 20 families with the hope of mentoring them to home ownership as well.
Our “J.A.M.” (Jesus and Me) ministry is a community building ministry for person with special needs. We meet together once a month for two hours on a Saturday afternoon in various places with various life enrichment and community building activities. We began J.A.M. in November of 2015 with 4 of God’s exceptional people. We now have approximately 75 special needs adults and caregivers attending regularly! Praise be to God!
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