The Church: St. John’s Episcopal Church
The Challenge: Reach out to fractured families in a community afflicted by opiate addiction and drug-related crimes
One Key Idea: Provide necessities to moms and dads coming out of rehab so they can adequately care for their kids
Lancaster, Ohio, a small, picturesque community of neo-Gothic buildings and storybook parks outside of Columbus, hides beneath its idyllic surface an epidemic of opiate addiction and drug-related crimes that have led to fractured families. Two years ago, the members of St. John’s Episcopal Church watched a video produced by local law enforcement and Juvenile Court Judge Steve Williams, illuminating the problems their community faced.
Carol Uhl, a member of the Evangelism and Renewal Committee at St. John’s, recognized this opportunity to serve their town in a new way. She requested a meeting with Williams to collaborate on solutions involving their congregation. “We said, ‘We don’t have a lot of money, but what can we possibly do to help?’” she recalls.
Jennifer Saelens, a Juvenile Court employee helping parents coming out of drug rehab reunite with their children, had the answer. The county provided housing for these families, but their basic needs went unmet. Mattresses, towels, soap—the kinds of necessities most people take for granted—simply weren’t there. Yet, these are key factors the courts consider when evaluating if a parent can adequately provide for—and therefore keep—his or her child.
Uhl and her committee jumped into action, creating totes that contained toiletries and household necessities. “Each tote costs $70 to fill,” Uhl says. While that was too great a financial strain for one person or the church budget, a giving tree in the church lobby allowed the entire congregation to chip in and lighten the load, easily filling as many as 40 totes in the last two years, by Uhl’s estimate.
Walking out the gospel by facilitating the restoration of families is “incredibly satisfying,” Uhl states. “To help a young mother or father get back their child is a wonderful feeling.”