Michigan Church ‘Hugs’ Its Community on Valentine’s Day

Remember service workers in your community this Valentine’s Day.

The Pentecostals of Kentwood, Michigan
Reach out to service-industry workers on Valentine’s Day.
Church members hand out candy and an invitation to church.

Every Valentine’s Day for the past 14 years, The Pentecostals of Kentwood church in Kentwood, Michigan, have been “hugging” their community with Hershey’s Hugs, reminding recipients that they are loved and appreciated.

“We have always looked for creative ways to make connections with people in our community, and we realized that the waiters, waitresses and other service workers were not able to enjoy [Valentine’s Day] like other people,” says Pastor Jay Jones. “They were being overlooked and we wanted to change that.”

The idea for the Hug Grand Rapids campaign was born. Each year, church members put together about 2,000 sandwich bags filled with a few Hershey’s Hugs chocolate candies, confetti and the church’s business card that read, “You’ve Been Hugged!”

“Around 90 percent of our 200 regular attendees participate in packaging the Hugs and distributing them in our community,” Jones says. “This outreach shares the love of Christ, mobilizes our church into the community, advances our church’s mission and meets people’s felt needs.”

He notes that the church experiences a significant increase in visitors during the outreach. Jones says church members who participate benefit as well. “Our volunteers are deeply moved by the heartfelt responses they receive, and they are encouraged in their own personal evangelism.”

The business card in the bag also lists the website for the Hug campaign where users can send a virtual hug to a friend. That site, HugGrandRapids.com, is linked to the church’s website, which invites users to attend a weekly service.

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