For more than 40 years The Baptist Church of West Chester, Penna., has provided a Saturday morning breakfast each week for the community’s homeless in its college town located near Philadelphia. Between 20 and 50 folks attend each week, according to Dena Colson, the congregation’s treasurer.
The church recently took another step to feed the homeless for which it received a $900 Matthew 25 Grant from American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA). “A few years ago, a member of our congregation brought to our attention that no agencies in the community were providing Sunday morning/lunchtime meals for the homeless,” explains Dena Colson, the congregation’s treasurer. “So, we decided we would also begin to offer a lunch/brunch once a month for the homeless, actually open to anyone in the community once a month. We soon figured out we had enough volunteers to offer the Sunday brunch twice a month.”
While the brunch doesn’t serve quite as many homeless on Sunday as on Saturday so far, about 60 community people attend altogether, including some congregants. “The brunch meal consists of soup, casseroles, salads, fruit, cookies and vegetables. We are so grateful for the Matthew 25 Grant, which helps us reach the at risk/homeless in our community a second time when they would otherwise have no meal service,” Colson says. Her spouse, Devyn, coordinates the brunch. The Sunday occasion offers a special opportunity for all kinds of people in the community to connect with each other.
Dena Colson notes the congregation from time to time assists West Chester’s homeless and at-risk population in other ways. “We offer donations of coats and other winter items such as socks, and bags filled with snacks and toiletries,” she says. The homeless population learns of the weekend meals from area agencies in West Chester and by word of mouth.
Colson notes the congregation is comprised of people of all ages, including families, couples, singles and students, who attend nearby West Chester University. Members come from a wide range of economic levels, and Colson says the Borough of West Chester is diverse economically, racially and ethnically.
“West Chester University is only a few blocks away,” Colson says. “We have had students join us for worship. They attend Christian Education classes and small group sessions as well as other types of fellowship opportunities. Our congregation has occasionally taken part in campus events. Through a campus service organization, students join us during the year to help us prepare and serve the Sunday brunch.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to 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/