Pandemic Care Packages Bless Senior Adults in Nation’s Capital
By Carl Stagner
Shutdown. Lockdown. Quarantine. Self-isolation. Shelter-in-place. Whatever you want to call it, COVID-19 restrictions have been tough on everybody, but especially those considered most at-risk. Considering those who inhabit the close quarters of nursing homes fall into this at-risk category, it’s no wonder the pandemic has proven particularly problematic. Thankfully, Northwest Community Church in Washington, D.C., seized the opportunity to serve, preparing and distributing care packages to this vulnerable population. Containing hygiene supplies and food, the congregation’s bundles of basic necessities were a blessing for volunteers to assemble, and a welcome boost for the dozens of seniors surprised by such a simple act of generosity.
A loaf of bread, toilet paper, pasta, rice, candy bars, granola bars, peanut butter, jelly, fruit, and disinfectants/sanitizers are among the items Northwest Community Church assembled. As you can imagine, some items were hard to find, as grocery store shelves quickly emptied. “We had to get creative,” Pastor Dan Turner explains. “We basically emptied out our church cleaning supplies to provide the toilet paper. We took the hand sanitizer and hand soap we had, and filled three-ounce bottles for each package. We created the disinfectant wipes by soaking half rolls of paper towels in disinfectant and placing them in a giant Ziplock bag.”
Certainly, their actions were not only creative, but sacrificial. Pastor Dan notes the quizzical looks members received in stores when their carts were full of the same items in large quantities. At one local store, Dan pulled out his clergy ID card so he could purchase multiple packs of toilet paper. But it was all for a good cause, and the congregation’s efforts were continually fueled by a desire to make a difference in the lives of their most vulnerable neighbors. On March 24, Northwest Community Church delivered their first batch of blessings: twenty-four care packages to a local senior living facility.
“Many of the neighborhoods in D.C. formed teams of volunteers to shop for their neighbors and those quarantined,” Dan recounts, “so we struggled, at first, to see how to best help. One of our members, who lived in a senior adult apartment building, informed us that there was a huge need for supplies among senior adults. We targeted that 190-unit building first and sent invitations out on our local neighborhood listservs, asking if they or anyone they knew, might need a care package.”
Twenty church volunteers participated with the project directly by shopping, sorting, and stuffing the care packages. Others sponsored care packages for $22 each. As cases of COVID-19 climbed, the project had to be suspended temporarily, but not before doing a whole lot of good. Consider the following note from a local senior:
“Thank you and your congregation for thoughts and prayers. The care package couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed everything in the grocery bag, especially the disinfectant. And how did you know I was out of Jasmine rice (no sodium, no cholesterol)?! Hair rinse, hand soap, and even fruits and trail bars and chocolate! Thank you, again. You have uplifted my spirits. Praise be to God.”
Through a partnership with a local organization, the project has also provided young mothers in need with essential items.
Recently self-quarantined due to possible coronavirus exposure, Pastor Dan enjoyed extra time to reflect, not only on how God has used Northwest Community Church to help others, but also how God had prepared the church long before the pandemic to weather the storm. Even as the congregation grieves the deadly effect of the virus among their own, they celebrate God’s providential hand leading them to and through this moment in history. Years ago, the church had introduced online giving; by the time the COVID-19 crisis began, 70 percent of the church’s income has come over the Internet. Online streaming was introduced there over a year ago, and an emergency fund had been established several years ago.
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
Please continue to pray for Northwest Community Church as they grieve and as they serve. Thank you. Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.