Board of Missions Goal
The goal of the Board of Missions is to participate in various projects and events to touch individuals in need by informing and involving the congregation of this church. We strive to reach those in our community, across the country and throughout the world.
Portland Refugee Resettlement Group
In March, 2022, our church welcomed a family from Afghanistan. The process began in October of 2021 when our church, working together with IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), began the journey of sponsoring a family. The Missions Board helped partake in this endeavor ~ all of the members signed up on a committee, as well as, several members of the church.
One of our mission members chaired this project which also included volunteers from the entire community of Portland. Training sessions and background checks were done and several committees were formed ~ Adult ESL, Clothing, Cultural Integration, Employment, Family Finance, Finances, Fundraising, Healthcare, Housing Search, Housing Set-Up, Interpreters, Technology Support, Transportation, Volunteer Co-Ordinator, Youth Education.
As of March 2023, the family settled into the community and a gathering picnic in June of 2023, was marked to celebrate their one-year anniversary and all those who participated in making this dream come true for a delightful family.
St. Vincent de Paul
St. Vincent de Paul tackles challenging issues faced by many who are in need of assistance. Located in Middletown, they feed the hungry, support the homeless, provide groceries to the elderly, disabled or those unable to provide for their families, act as a post office address for the homeless, assist with clothing, and help with applications for federal or state support.
When a need arises, St. Vincent de Paul does their best to meet the specific need, whatever it might entail. The Missions Board has been involved with this organization for many years, recruiting volunteers from the church, in signing up to serve and provide nutritious breakfasts and healthy, warm dinners.
Streetfire “Thursday Night Strike”
The ministry of Streetfire has been assisting the poor and homeless population of Middletown and surrounding areas for approximately six years. Their church as no walls, their ministry is “out on the streets” providing meals, distributing personal hygiene products, passing out clothing and preaching spiritual needs on a weekly basis. Streetfire has developed a close relationship with patrons, and we are grateful to be able to help them with their mission of reaching all who are in need.
The Missions Board, along with volunteers from the congregation, participates once a month in preparing and serving a meal for “Thursday Night Strike”. We have developed a close relationship with Streetfire and continually work to help provide for their needs.
God’s Work ~ Our Hands
We have called it “The Electric Spark”, the “Sea of Blue” ~ the picture of Fellowship Hall filled with over 70 volunteers, of all ages, participating with enthusiasm, kindness and compassion to “venture out into our community” and BE the church ~ to meet our neighbors in town and perform simple tasks to those in need. Our Missions Board has sponsored this project for the second time ~ as our doors usually close when the worship service begins, on this particular Sunday, they will open as we join together and set out to different areas and volunteer a few hours of our time to make a difference in our community and beyond for those in need.
Five areas were selected so everyone could find a place to volunteer.
This first area was yardwork and simple “handyman” repairs. These volunteers go to the homes of people who have asked for assistance to do yardwork or simple repairs.
The second area was a sing-a-long at the Portland Care and Rehabilitation Center ~ Kasha, our Choir Director, provided songs to sing to patients and the choir welcomes any volunteers who would like to join them.
The third area was “Dress A Girl” ~ an organization we have been involved with for many years. “Dress A Girl’s” motto is “every girl deserves at least one new dress in her life.” Volunteers for this group met in Fellowship Hall and began to make dresses. You don’t have to be a good sewer to join this group, there are people who will help you along the way. All the kits are provided, you just need to bring a sewing machine, or one can be provided.
The fourth area was making flower arrangements (and deliveries) to those who need a “little light in their life”. This is a new area, in that, we felt it important to reach out to those in our congregation who need to know we are thinking of them and want to “brighten” their day.
The fifth area was the kitchen crew and servers ~ these volunteers took over the kitchen with the best hot dogs, delicious chili, chips and several desserts. Volunteers for this area would work together to come up with a menu, set up a few tables and serve lunch to those coming back from their areas of work.
No matter what your abilities or age – we can come together and BE the “hands” of God. “T-shirts are available to those who sign up and haven’t done God’s Work ~ Our Hands” in the past.
Our Missions Board continues the tradition of helping the Portland Food Bank provide Christmas to many needy Portland families.
The “Giving Tree” adorns the sanctuary with festive lights and gift tags. People, who would like to participate, are asked to take a tag off the tree, purchase the gift, and replace it with an ornament made by the First Church Nursery School children.
All gifts are then delivered to the Portland Food Bank in time for the holiday. Bringing the true meaning of Christmas ~ Hope, Peace, Joy and Love is felt with the outpouring of gifts and donations.
- Christmas Fund ~ The Christmas Fund has been caring for active and retired clergy and lay employees of the United Church of Christ for over 100 years, providing emergency grants, supplementation of small annuities and health premiums, and Christmas “Thank You” gift checks each December to lower-income retirees.
- Christmas Eve Collection ~ The opportunity to support the Portland Fuel Bank, during the cold winter months for families in need, continues every holiday season. The collection taken on Christmas Eve will offer support to this tradition of warming families through the harshest part of the year.
- Neighbors in Need ~ Every year, for the month of October, our Missions Board has been receiving the Neighbors in Need special mission offering of the United Church of Christ. The offering supports ministries of justice and compassion in the United States and each year focuses on a specific topic ~ they advocate for a society where all people have a voice in decisions that affect their lives.
- One Great Hour of Sharing ~ a special mission offering of the United Church of Christ which involves you in disaster, refugee/immigration, and development ministries throughout the world. When a disaster strikes or people are displaced or made refugees by violence or extreme poverty, you are part of the immediate response and of the long-term recovery.
Through OGHS you engage in holistic development programs including healthcare, education, agriculture, food sustainability, micro-financing and women’s empowerment. The UCC relates in mutual partnership to churches and organizations through Global Ministries and worldwide response & recovery networks, and your contributions to One Great Hour of Sharing put you in the right place at the right time for the relief, accompaniment and recovery of the most vulnerable. You meet immediate needs and you address the underlying causes that create those needs in the first place.
Dress-A-Girl Around the World
This is a story of HOPE ~ hope for young girls around the world to change the course of their lives by showing them dignity, health, joy and love. Dress A Girl Around the World began under the organization of Hope 4 Women International, an organization which began in 2008 and was formed for charitable and educational purposes. Their goal was to empower women in Uganda, the Philippines and other countries, (who suffer from poverty, disease and low self-worth,) to become self-sufficient with businesses of their own. By responding to critical needs, they significantly impact lives & assist women who are struggling to survive in destitute communities.
In 2010, a business sponsorship program began and since then, over 800 women have completed the “Women in Business” program, providing them with the tools to be self-sufficient in owning their own business which allows them to care for themselves and their children.
From that effort, “Dress A Girl” emerged ~ since its start in October of 2009, the recorded number of dresses delivered is over one million to 81 countries with Ambassadors all over the world. The idea became contagious ~ dedicated volunteers throughout the United States and around the world gather to sew and distribute dresses to girls worldwide.
Our Missions Board has reached out to many in our congregation and outside in the community to sew dresses which are sent around the world. To date, over 150 dresses have been sent to the Ukraine, Guatemala, Haiti and Africa. This project can be done when “workshops” are formed bringing sewers together or individually for those who are unable to join us at church.
Pray It Forward
Pray It Forward” was brought to our attention by the youth of this church and has now found a new home with our Missions Board. The idea is to use your inner spirit, imagination, and share a gift.
Every year, the Confirmands receive $50.00 from Missions to donate to a charity, special program, organization or someone in a family they know (or heard about) who is in need ~ a person or place important and meaningful to them. They are asked to “think outside the box”; to be creative when deciding who should receive the donation. In one month’s time, they return during a special “Mission Moment” and share their story of who received the donation and why.
“Feeding Our Neighbors” Food Cart
The Missions Board recently took on this new project and invites those attending worship on Sunday morning to bring non-perishable food items to fill the cart for the Portland Food Bank. Non-perishable food items may be brought to church any time during the month and placed in the cart. All items will be delivered to the food bank by a member of the Missions Board.
During the summer months, especially, members are reminded to remember children who are home and need easy to prepare items such as macaroni and cheese, canned pasta, cereal, juice boxes, fruit cups, granola bars, etc.
This mission continues throughout the year.
Personal Hygiene Products
This mission parallels “The Feeding Our Neighbors Cart”. Our board started up the collection of sanitary items for the Portland Food Bank ~ a box was placed in Fellowship Hall for that collection ~ adult diapers, toothpaste/toothbrushes, and deodorant are continually being collected and delivered.
In January, each year, donations are distributed to several organizations. The following 14 organizations received $300 in 2023.
- Back Bay Mission – Biloxi, Mississippi
- Mercy Housing & Shelter – Hartford, CT
- Middlesex Habitat for Humanity of Connecticut, Inc., Cromwell, CT
- Silver Lake Camp & Retreat Center, Sharon, CT
- The Connection Fund, Middletown, CT
- Guiding Light Orphanage – Avon, CT
- A New Beginning Recovery House, New Haven, CT
- Connecticut Special Olympics, Hamden, CT
- St. Vincent de Paul Center – Middletown, CT
- Hope After Loss – New Britain, CT
- Building Homes for Heros, Island Park, NY
- The Jonah Center – Middletown, CT
- Connecticut Food Share – Wallingford, CT
- Gilead Community Services – Middletown, CT
Donations to the Missions Board are welcome ~ checks can be made out to “The First Congregational Church” with Missions Board written in the memo.
Together, we “Do Make A Difference!”