Congregations — Partners with Impact

Oct 24, 2022 | Congregations


By Tom Peterson

Christ’s Beloved Community is a congregation in Southside Winston-Salem that was born of 2 denominations: Episcopal and Lutheran. It started in 2014, with a group of people who simply began knocking on doors, letting people know they were here and trying to understand the needs of this community.

The group heard a lot about food insecurity. So they partnered with other organizations, including Second Harvest Food Bank, to open a food pantry in March 2018. About 5 families showed up that first day.

“We now distribute to up to 150 families each distribution, 3 times a month for 2 hours,” says Angelica Espinal, who today is the missioner for community engagement for the church and a FaithHealth connector. Working alongside Christ’s Beloved Community leader, Father Javier Arias, the organization continues to serve the community, of whom 90 percent are Hispanic/Latino.

The group partners with other churches and organizations that help out, providing volunteers and donating not just food, but also diapers, feminine products and anything else that’s needed.

“You can see on our Facebook page the various groups and volunteers that not only have a passion for helping, but have love and respect for the families we serve,” says Espinal.

Pre-COVID-19, people came inside and shopped for what they needed, but when the pandemic arrived, they switched to drive-through. They are still able to talk with the families who come to ask for what they need. Father Javier offers the spiritual help many families need during these uncertain times.

Every day in the US, volunteers and staff from thousands of congregations, including those connected to FaithHealth, show up to make a difference in others’ lives. They provide caring people and last-mile systems to extend compassionate care beyond the walls of the medical centers and service agencies.

Partnerships with Impact

With the help of FaithHealth, Christ’s Beloved Community was able to get and hand out N95 face masks. And with their own networks and other FaithHealth connectors, they helped families struggling with rent and utilities. Through their partnership with Second Harvest, they share information about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, letting families know who’s eligible – because many don’t know they are – and how to apply.

One volunteer, Marc Madrigal, who works with Love Out Loud, helped people make vaccination appointments. Some of the volunteer doctors and nurses shared their knowledge to lift the stigma from the vaccine.

Of course, congregations are made up of individuals, and some work in health. Two members of Christ’s Beloved Community are nurses; one is retired, Karen Byrd, and the other, Jamie Bucknall, works at a hospital. The church hosts a monthly clinic where the nurses check blood pressure and diabetes, talk about nutrition, discuss their medicines, and make referrals to other clinics and organizations.

Many of the volunteers and members have similar life experiences with some of the families who are struggling.

“We’ve been in their shoes before,” says Espinal. “That gives us an opportunity to be understanding and empathetic.”

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FaithHealth Magazine Fall 2022