Immanuel church receives grants for programs, equipment

Paula Thomas, the “Grocery Queen” of the food assistance programs, sets food aside to be given on Saturday, Nov. 20. Photo by D. Vaglia

By Dean Vaglia
Leader Staff Writer
Immanuel Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) received two grants totaling $20,000 for programs and equipment at the church.
The first grant, a $2,000 Vitality Grant from the Michigan Conference of the UCC, will be used to buy new equipment to make services more accessible.
“They grant up to $5,000 a year to a church that shows innovation in growing their church membership,” Roxanne Todd, Immanuel Congressional’s marketing director and grant writer, said. “Though growing our membership is a goal, our primary goal was meeting the needs of the community and feeling that membership would come with it.”
The grant funds will be used to help pay for an assistive listening system to allow those with hearing impairments or autism to better hear services, a platform video display and tablets to give people with visual impairments to better see services and outfitting part of the church as a “reset area” to allow attendees with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to take a break in case of sensory overload.
“Of course, the grant only covers part of the expenses,” Todd said. “We’re making an appeal to members [for donations] and then we’ve got some funds in our memorial fund that we’re going to use. First we wanted to get through the craft show because the money from the craft show is going to support this program.”
Though the $2,000 is in hand, Todd does not see the money being used before the next council meeting.
The second grant, an $18,000 award from the Four Counties Community Foundation, will be used to cover the operating costs of two food assistance programs based at the church.
The first program is the Community Meal Program, which is run by several local churches and currently hosted at Immanuel Congressional. The program provides free meals on Wednesday nights. Meals have since been distributed in the form of “boxed lunches” since April 2021.
The second program is the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Grocery Distribution program. According to the grant application, Neighbor-to-Neighbor grew out of the Community Meal program when Connie Miller, manager of the kitchen team, saw an increase in food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is intended to run until the pandemic ends and does not require recipients to prove their “need.”
“Everybody that comes through the line [is] given a clipboard with a grocery list where they can check off what items they need,” Miller said. “[The items] are bagged up and they’re in their car by the time [guests] pull up to the door.”
Funds will be used to pay for food in both programs, though cash and food donations are still required to make the programs run.
“I don’t know where we’ll be financially from one week to the next,” Miller said. “It all depends on donations.”
Local companies that have helped with either program include Woodchips Restaurant, Evergreens Coffee and Bakeshop and Magic Brownie Box, all of which have cooked meals. Meijer has provided gift cards, while Great Harvest and Panera provide some amount of bread per week.
Those who would like to help the programs are encouraged to donate groceries or money, the latter being used to buy fresh foods like eggs and milk.
The Community Meal Program will distribute Thanksgiving dinners tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 24).

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