Waterloo churches band together for the community - Republic-Times | News

Waterloo churches band together for the community

By on November 7, 2012 at 9:30 am

Retired teachers Glen and Waneta Ottoson provide homework assistance during the Kidz Klub program at First Baptist Church in Waterloo. Program director Rita Trantham said up to 25 volunteers assist in the after-school program. (Kermit Constantine photo)

There are around 15 churches in Waterloo alone. Despite their separate denominations and faith practices, many share the same mission outside of their religion: helping those in need.

“We all deal with the same problems,” Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith explained.

Under this mantra, a Waterloo Ministers Group was formed to help bring area churches together. Smith said “ministers deal with a lot of problems” in the community, such as poverty and assisting the elderly and others with various needs.

One of the group’s most recent projects was the Waterloo Halloween Trunk-or-Treat outside the courthouse. More than 1,000 people visited the event this year. Up until recently, local churches were doing their own individual trunk-or-treats.

So Smith thought, “Why don’t we all just come together?”

And they have. On the second Wednesday of every month, area ministers or church officials meet at City Hall to discuss ways they can work together to help those in need. The group is not limited to just those in Waterloo. Smith says anyone is welcome. Ministers from Hecker and Evansville attend the meetings as well.

The Waterloo Community Help Line, which can be reached at 939-8680, was the first project to come out of the group back in 2010. Each church takes turns with the phone, taking calls as part of a free community service that helps elderly citizens and others in need of regular property upkeep and maintenance. Recently, Real Life Methodist Church put a deck on a disabled person’s house.

Earlier this year, St. Paul United Church of Christ served its first Monday evening Martha’s Kitchen/Mary’s Heart meal as a result of the ministers group.

“Not knowing what to expect, no one attended that very first meal, but since that February evening they have seen as many as 40 in attendance,” St. Paul UCC Director of Youth Ministries Jane Kramer told the Republic-Times.

Martha’s Kitchen/Mary’s Heart has served meals to those ranging from one to 98 years old in the church’s multi-purpose room starting at 6 p.m. each Monday. Kramer said volunteers try to make more food than they need, so diners can take leftovers home. She is hoping other churches will start a meal service program of their own, with hopes to one day see a free meal service every night of the week in Waterloo. For more information, or to see how you can get involved, call 939-7123.

With the goal to help the students in the community, First Baptist Church formed Kidz Klub, a Wednesday after-school program offering transportation from school to the church, homework assistance, recess time, dinner, choir and a high energy ministry program from 3 to 7 p.m. For more information on Kidz Klub or to register, call 939-9500.

Pre-existing groups and projects such as The Society of St. Vincent de Paul (svdpsouthil.org), a non-denominational group of area church members who help provide assistance for those in need, and the Hope Christian Church Food Pantry have also benefited from the ministers group.

“(The group) is helping us grow, and we are helping them grow,” Hope Food Pantry Director Jane Wood explained.  “We now have other church members help out.”

Wood said the ministers group has help spread the word about their program, which is now the largest pantry in the county. When the pantry first started in 1997, Wood said they were getting about 75 families at twice-monthly food pick-ups.

Now, about 200 families come to pick-ups on the second and fourth Fridays each month from noon to 2 p.m., with the expectation they will serve hundreds more this holiday.

To get involved with the Hope Food Pantry or learn more about the food pick-ups, call 939-9085. Due to the Christmas holiday, food pick-ups in December will be on the first and third Fridays.
For more information on the Waterloo Ministers Group or to nominate a Waterloo citizen for the Good Neighbor Program, contact Julie Yeager at 939-8600.

The Good Neighbor Program is also a by-product of the ministers group and allows those living in city limits to nominate someone once per quarter for helping out in the community or around their neighborhood.

(Additional reporting by Kermit Constantine)

Teryn Schaefer

Teryn was born and raised in Waterloo, growing up watching local sports and Mon-Clair baseball. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School and loves cheering on her Tigers any chance she gets.