COLUMBIA — St. Ann Church in Florence and Our Lady of Peace Church in North Augusta are working with an international Christian organization to obtain supplies for needy people in their communities.
Both churches have signed up to receive aid from the Southwest Georgia location of World Vision, a program that helps children, families and communities tackle the causes of poverty.
For an annual fee of $200, a parish can join World Vision and then pick up truckloads of donations each quarter. Both churches pay for the fees through contributions.
Father John Zimmerman, administrator at St. Ann, and Ellen Cortez, coordinator of Our Lady of Peace Outreach in North Augusta, recently took a rented truck to Albany, Ga., to pick up supplies, which included everything from toiletries and toys to office and school staples.
Cortez, who runs the outreach with Pam Mentrup, said she learned about World Vision in 2005 when she was looking for a source of donations in the southeast. The Georgia location is led by Rev. Jim Ewing.
Cortez said Our Lady of Peace was one of the first churches outside of Georgia to become involved with the program. Most churches in the Albany area receive a shipment every month, but St. Ann and Our Lady of Peace receive shipments every quarter or every six months because they have to plan and coordinate a trip to the storehouse.
She never knows in advance what will be included in a shipment, because merchandise is donated directly to World Vision from corporations and other sources. The most common items include toiletries, household products such as laundry detergent, and office and school supplies.
She said Our Lady of Peace uses the items to help needy people in the parish, and in other Christian ministries and programs throughout North Augusta.
World Vision supplies have helped North Augusta 2000, which is a regional literacy program, and the “School Tools” drive.
Our Lady of Peace regularly sends necessities to Our Lady of the Valley Outreach Center in Graniteville and the Garden City Rescue Mission, which helps people in need.
Past shipments have included books, which the outreach donated to area schools and libraries. She said toiletries and other personal items often go to the program “When Help Can’t Wait,” which works with residents of 14 nursing homes in the North Augusta area.
“A lot of times, we’ll take the residents things to make them happy: combs, brushes, toothbrushes, ribbons, chewing gum,” she said. “Many elderly people just love getting stuff. The littlest things will perk them up.”
The truckloads often contain toys, books and other goodies for children. Recent gifts included picture puzzles depicting biblical stories and other Christian themes.
“The great thing is that most of the children’s products you get from World Vision are Christian-based, so you know you’re not going to get anything controversial or unacceptable,” Cortez said.
She added that World Vision organizers work with the outreach to make sure they have appropriate supplies for ongoing programs, such as school drives.
“They want to make sure that the products they’re giving to us are of use,” she said.
Father Zimmerman first learned about World Vision when he served at Our Lady of Peace. He brought the program to St. Ann after he was transferred in 2007.
So far, he said his parish has received office products, school supplies, and many other items. He said the office stock helps the churches save money, which is then used for other outreach services.
St. Anthony School also received pens, calendars, glue sticks, paper and a Christian-themed version of Play-Doh called “Pray Clay.”
Clothing is not a major part of the donations. Some clothes that were included in a recent truckload were given to St. Ann’s outreach director Juanita Gerald for distribution.
Other merchandise went to Lighthouse Ministries, which helps needy families and other Christian denominations that offer outreach programs.
Father Zimmerman said World Vision offers St. Ann a chance to help others in the community, and spread awareness about the parish and its programs.
“We can help them, and then they’re more cooperative with us,” Father Zimmerman said. “Many in this area aren’t all that familiar with Catholicism, and this helps us to be more recognized by the secular community.
“We’ve been a presence here in this neighborhood since the ‘40s and ‘50s, and this could really also help improve relationships with the other Christian denominations in the area.”
To learn more visit www.worldvisionusprograms.org/#/albany or call (229) 439- 7101. Contact Ellen Cortez at email@example.com.