Church shows generosity to those in need - East Valley Tribune: News

Church shows generosity to those in need

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Posted: Sunday, July 12, 2009 9:41 pm | Updated: 2:46 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Darlene Roe, a member of Mesa's First Evangelical Lutheran Church since 1964 and volunteer leader in recent years, said there is no shortage of hands to help people who have fallen on tough times.

The line stretching from First Evangelical Lutheran Church's food pantry shrank and grew unpredictably in waves Thursday morning as families came for boxes of food.

Darlene Roe, a member of the church since 1964 and volunteer leader in recent years, said these days, there is no shortage of hands to help people who have fallen on tough times.

"I have so many volunteers - everybody wants to help - I have to space them out a little," Roe said of the generosity of her church members, many of whom are of retirement age.

The church is but one example of how the ecumenical community in Mesa is stepping up to fill the high demand for assistance that continues throughout the area. Churches throughout the city came together several months ago at a prayer breakfast with city leaders who urged them to reach out to meet local needs.

The church food bank at First Evangelical Lutheran opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

A clothing service also is offered for children in need who are returning to school. Currently, the church is trying to raise more than 125 pairs of athletic shoes for children who attend a charter school and other programs housed on the church's property.

Margaret Roush-Meier, the director of Concordia Charter School, said she is expecting more than 60 students in the fall - not counting those who attend a Head Start program - as well as other children in the community who participate in tutoring at the church.

She said her charter school found a home at the church when Pastor John Schaumburg opened the doors to her school three years ago.

"I've known Pastor John for more than a decade, when I was a member of his church in Flagstaff," Roush-Meier said. "He is really a very strong leader and committed to community outreach."

The pastor said the community outreach was more of a baton he'd received than one he initiated.

"The church has had outreach in the community long before I got there," said Schaumburg, who has served at the location at 142 N. Date for a decade.

He described the volunteers and staff at the church as a well-oiled machine, which enabled him some well-deserved time off in mid-July to enjoy cooler weather floating on the River Reservoir near Greer.

During the brief respite to float in a tube and commune with nature, Pastor John said in a phone call from the retreat: "I'm a fly fisherman - but a better fisherman than I am just caught himself a fish."

Pastor John said he had just observed an osprey snatch a fish from the water, where he had been waiting patiently in a tube to do the same thing. "I was just sitting there and I said 'Oh, an osprey' and it just caught the fish."

Several months ago, the city held a prayer breakfast to call on local churches to step up to help meet the growing needs of the community amid the struggling economy.

The Faith In Community Council, the brainchild of Councilwoman Dina Higgins, in some respects has taken the osprey's approach to community outreach, announcing the needs of city residents to a broadening network of church and community groups that run the spectrum of religious and secular-based groups in Mesa.

During a recent tour of First Evangelical Lutheran Church, Higgins said the church is a model of bountiful resources that she only hoped to broadcast to other corners of the city.

Higgins said the church has been a leader in the city in offering services to the community without requiring that residents be affiliated with their religion.

"They have a Head Start program, they have summer programs and after-school programs," she said. "A lot of the kids don't even go to the church - they're just kids in need."

Higgins, who said she knew of many different churches and religions bringing vital resources to meet the increasing needs of their surrounding communities, had sought to garner the widespread resources and help build the network not only in her district, but in the entire city.

Several months ago, when Higgins called community leaders together along with city officials, they met and prayed in accordance with their different faiths - there were Christian pastors of various denominations, rabbis and imams, among others.

Then they shared breakfast at the Mesa Arts Center before going off to their different quarters of the city, to do what many may describe as good works in different faiths.

"They've been doing this long before we had the prayer breakfast," Higgins said.

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