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Home > Interpreter Magazine > It Worked For Us > Small partner churches win food race

The Rev. Sid Spain and co-lay leader Cynthia Sibley pose proudly in front of the food delivered to Denver Urban Ministries.
Small partner churches win food race

By Jennifer Lind

For a small church, reaching out to others sometimes seems unrealistic, especially when it's hard to raise enough money just to keep the lights on.

United Methodist Church of Eagle Valley in Eagle and Gypsum, Colo., beat the odds. With an average worship attendance of 81, the partner churches collected 2,000 pounds of food in one month, winning the Denver Urban Ministries (DenUM) Community Food Race in April.

Competing against seven other community churches, they won by collecting 24.5 pounds of food per member. They drove two and a half hours, over two mountain passes, to deliver the donation. The prize was an ice cream social hosted by the DenUM staff and an Urban Education Day.
"Smaller churches tend to feel like we don't make the kind of impact that a large church does. But we are making a difference," says Cynthia Sibley, co-lay leader, who coordinated the project.

The eight churches participating in the DenUM Community Food Race collected over 11,000 pounds of food. In April, DenUM provided emergency food assistance to 1,056 families, nearly twice as many as the same time last year.

In the Eagle Valley congregation, people of all ages participated, including children, for whom the mission became an educational experience on the importance of giving.

A group of elderly ladies who always sit together in a single pew  -- the wild bunch, as they are fondly termed  -- really took the food race seriously, buying all the food they could afford.  

"I went to the store to see if I could buy a couple of items that we needed," Sibley says. "There was no more powered milk on the shelf. I am sure we bought it all."

Employees of Denver Urban Ministries and church member Versiellen Driver celebrate the 2,000 pounds of food collected by the church in April.
Soon, Sibley received an e-mail saying they were winning the competition. When she told church members, they were shocked.  "Everybody just looked around like, us?"

 This initial success became a turning point and strong motivator for churchwide participation.

"Instead of focusing on ourselves, which can happen so often, especially in small churches where the money is tight, all of a sudden, we were working on a project that was outside of our own personal needs," Sibley says.

"We didn't realize that that was the piece that we were missing, that we need to do things for other people."

The victory has invigorated their food bank ministry, which the churches maintained at the same time as the Community Food Race. "We are in a very good financial situation right now and are able to do some of the projects that we have been holding off," Sibley says.

Church attendance his risen from 81 in April to 102 in August.

The churches plan to continue supporting DenUM and to shift their focus to the Nothing But Nets anti-malaria campaign. Next spring, they will hold another food drive, even if there is no race.

"If you give, and you give in the right spirit, things will work out and they have," Sibley says.

--Jennifer Lind, United Methodist Communications intern, is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. 

AT A GLANCE: United Methodist Church of Eagle Valley | 138 Howard Street, Eagle, CO 81631 | 118 Eagle Street, Gypsum, CO 81637 | (970) 328-6598 | | | Pastor: Rev. Sid Spain | Average attendance: 102 | Rocky Mountain Conference



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