“Because 128 children in Westerly and Chariho (R.I.) are homeless you need to eat pancakes.” So reads a promotion by Harriet Lamont, who for two years has been working with other volunteers and the pastor of First Baptist Church in Cross Mills, R.I., to generate support for homeless families in crisis.
The support vehicle? It’s called “Pancakes 4 a Purpose.” The initiative began in 2014 the first Saturday of each month at First Baptist Church in Cross Mills, and last year expanded on different Saturdays of the month to include Dunn’s Corner Community Church and Church of the Holy Spirit in the Westerly, R.I., community. Among other things, Harriet Lamont designs newsy placemats called “Pancake News” about issues of homelessness for the breakfast diners to peruse.
Collectively, the breakfasts have raised $15,000 so far, according to First Baptist’s Pastor Paul Rollins, who supports Harriet in her putting together an electronic manual about how to stage breakfasts of this kind in support of community needs. Diners may not need much incentive to pack the churches on Saturday mornings at $5 a meal. (Kids eat for free.) The scrumptious menu choices include plain, blueberry, strawberry and chocolate chip pancakes with a side of sausage.
A recent Matthew 25 Grant of $1,000 to the Cross Roads church from American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) enabled the purchase of two heavy-duty griddles to keep pace with the regular breakfasts, along with paper and black ink Harriet uses to make creative flyers, table tents and invitations. (She’s also designed coloring books for children.) The manual First Baptist is generating will advise other churches on a breakfast plan, including checklists, recipes and general setup. The hope is other congregations in the community and beyond will use the manual to establish breakfasts on their own turf.
How did the breakfasts come about in the first place? In 2013 about a dozen volunteers from a variety of churches and concerned agencies met at Dunn’s Corner Church, debating over what to do about homeless families in crisis.
Westerly Area Rest Meals, Inc. (with the apt acronym WARM) operates a 19-bed emergency shelter for individuals and a soup kitchen. They also provide 11 apartments for homeless families in crisis. But the volunteers quickly learned at the time that 37 families were on a perpetual waiting list. There simply wasn’t enough support for homeless families in crisis.
They decided on a new mission. They set up a nonprofit agency called Family Housing Support, a program that would engage in renting apartments to homeless families in crisis. In addition to securing private donations, “Pancakes 4 a Purpose” became the main funding vehicle. The $15,000 raised from breakfasts has gone toward rent, insurance and furniture for two apartments. So far 10 families with 24 children have come into the apartments over the past two-and-a-half years. They may remain in the units for up to three or four months until a housing situation stabilizes or until they find permanent placement elsewhere. While in the apartments, families receive case management support from WARM. The apartments initiative serves the Westerly, Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton locales in the congregation’s neighborhood. Currently, a third apartment is in the planning stages.
“As the minister of Cross Mills, I must admit I have never seen a church be more committed to and have more fun in doing a mission, than this one,” Rollins says.
Anyone wanting to know more about First Baptist’s manual or the tools the church uses to promote the breakfasts and the cause of homelessness is invited to contact Harriet Lamont at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to help meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.”
The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit: www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/