8:41 PM --- Thanks to you, we've hit our goal of $1000 (post-match)!
I am the assistant director of my church's food pantry.
No, we are not a megachurch unless your definition of megachurch is a weekly attendance of 40 people.
We're traditional in worship style (I play the 1919 J.W. Steere & Son, 33-rank pipe organ each week), but we're modern in belief.
No, we do not hold fundraisers to proselytize, make videos, or buy a new luxury car/yacht/supersonic jet for our pastor. She would refuse it anyway.
We're one of the oldest churches in the Upper Ohio Valley, namely the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. We were founded in 1856 for two reasons: 1) We opposed slavery, and our "parent" church was pro-slavery to the point that the pastor owned slaves, so we broke off. 2) We drank alcohol, and I mean drank. The wealthiest founders of our congregation owned breweries.
We're Lutheran (ELCA), and if you'd like to know the difference --- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is an ELCA Lutheran; Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) is not. I know that many on DKos rightfully raise an eyebrow or furrow their brows at organized religion in America. So, just in case you're wondering, I am a member of the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, People for the American Way, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and I have donated to the Freedom from Religion Foundation. I believe religious instruction is the sole responsibility of parents, pastors, and parishioners NOT public school teachers. School prayer nauseates me.
The most people we have in our beautiful 1860-built (1891-remodeled) structure each month is on the 4th Tuesday, when 120+ families from three local counties come to get an allotment of food items both perishable and non-perishable. We're one of a very few pantries in the area to provide meats, fish, pork, and poultry to our recipients. We serve anyone in the three county area regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religious belief or non-belief, or any other category you can think of.
Now that I've tried to assauge any concerns you may have, back to the appeal....
As I said earlier, our average worship attendance these days is around 40. Our heart-of-the-rust-belt city has experienced a 50% population loss in the last 50 years. Furthermore, so many people have moved away from the urban area and decided to attend churches closer to their neighborhood. As is evidenced by countless accounts on the internet, urban churches have experienced the decline in a faster, more prevalent manner even though urban churches are more likely to have direct social ministries such as feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and offering health care assistance.
This is the first public donation campaign we've had since we opened the Food Pantry in 1996. In fact, this is the first public donation campaign I've ever run, and to be honest, I'll in well over my head. My degree is in Piano, for crying out loud... no MBA here. I'm an amateur, but I'm also a very driven, very socially-conscious individual. While my heart convinced me that raising $10K was a easily attainable goal, my mind failed to talk me off the dream of actually accomplishing it. My primary strategy was to ask around 90 religious, social, labor, and community organizations for $100 each. As of today, only 14 have replied. I needn't tell you how disheartening that is for me.
Also, I created an online donation page with a goal of raising $650. I've made graphics and promoted them on Facebook, and our few tech-saavy congregants have been kind enough to share the graphics. The pastor and I did a radio spot on local talk radio, and yes, over 4500 people saw our online appeal. Unfortunately, we've only received $455 online, and the online component ends today at midnight EST. You see, we're doing this because we've been given the opportunity to have any monies raised by March 31 receive a 50% match up to $10K. Under the rules of the matching grant, online monies received by March 31 are eligible, and under the online website's restrictions, the donation date ends TODAY.
That's why I'm reaching out to DKos in this last minute appeal. I ask you to please forgive the seemingly selfish nature of this diary, but I cannot express you to the necessity of our Food Pantry to both the local families who come to us but our waning, aging congregation. Since the SNAP cuts were implemented, our numbers have exploded. Two large businesses recently closed, and dozens of their employees have come to us for help. On our January distribution day, it was -9°F (actual), and there were people lined up at 7:30AM for the 10:00AM opening.
When I hear GOP politicians ignorantly claiming that churches will supplement the difference, it infuriates me. They're not donating. A few months ago, the local television station ran a story the suggested all of the Lutheran churches in the area were going to consolidate, and we had to field more than 50 panicked calls from those who were terrified our Food Pantry was going to close.
I'll leave you with some statistics, and I'll be following this diary throughout the evening to answer any questions you might have. If you do not feel comfortable donating to us, please donate to your local food bank. Thank you.
2008: 662 families - 1,222 individuals
2009: 1,048 families - 2,127 individuals
2010: 1,318 families - 2,620 individuals
2011: 1,469 families - 2,862 individuals
2012: 1,471 families - 3,035 individuals
2013: 1,638 families - 4,025 individuals
5:40 PM PT: You did it! Thanks to a last day push from DKos members, we hit our goal! Thank you to all who donated!