Strategic Partnership Strengthens Ohio Church’s Serve

 In All Church of God, CHOG, Great Lakes, Loving and Serving

By Carl Stagner

A successful offensive start in several sports depends on a strong serve. In the kingdom of God, similar dynamics are at play: Jesus modeled serving one another in love, after all. In view of the wide variety of needs evident in our communities today, it’s no wonder the advancement of God’s kingdom often begins with being the hands and feet of Christ. Sometimes one’s serve is strengthened by experienced athletes who share tested form and function. When a church and trusted community organization partner to serve their community together—as has happened in greater Dayton, Ohio—both come away with a stronger serve.

For more than half a century, Northmont FISH has ministered to the region surrounding Salem Church of God. As a “good neighbor,” “Friends in Service for Humanity” primarily resources residents with food and clothing, as well as other basic necessities; recently, however, FISH has expanded to offer some medical care to those for whom it would otherwise be inaccessible. But when one of its outstanding, longtime directors needed to retire for health reasons, the volunteer base looked for opportunities to breathe new life into the essential community fixture.

Volunteers hard at work!

“Many of the volunteers at that time were congregants at Salem, so they started pursuing what it would look like if FISH fell under Salem’s ministry umbrella,” Emily Eck explains. Emily, who now serves as the director of Northmont Fish, is excited to lead a charity that is making a visible and tangible difference in the community under the banner of Christ. And, though Salem Church of God and FISH each have their own 501(c)(3) status, and though FISH operates out of a facility managed by another community business, the ability to coordinate and combine resources for greater community impact has never been clearer.

“Salem had supported FISH in previous years by food drives and other gifts,” Emily explains, “but after FISH came under Salem’s ministry umbrella, that support increased greatly. FISH is a direct outlet to the community for Salem to send volunteers and resources to minister to the community. Salem’s support has also made my role possible so services and next opportunities can be pursued and managed from within the organization, in addition to all the creative ways that Salem seeks to engage the community. It’s a great partnership that together allows Salem to be Salem and FISH to be FISH.”

Divine calling brough Emily to the helm of FISH, and she’s forever grateful to God for the appointment. She’d served as a secretary for a local high school, a job she loved for about five years. A series of providential circumstances led her into the unknown, but through a ministry of Salem Church of God designed to help people identify calling and craft, Emily was asked to consider taking the role. Since November 2021, she’s witnessed firsthand the power of God to transform lives through strategic partnerships like that of Salem Church of God and FISH.

Inside the mobile dental unit!

“We want to perpetuate life change by meeting foundational needs through nourishing relationships,” Emily says. “We can help fix the immediate need with food, clothing, and other services; however, being a place that encourages and offers support to folks so cycles are broken is the bigger goal. Our volunteer teams are incredible at building relationships with our clients. We regularly hear from clients how, at FISH, people are treated with kindness and respect in ways that other similar support services don’t give them. Our volunteers come from many churches and businesses. We’re blessed to have the team we do because, without their dedicated commitment to those we serve, FISH could not do what we do! Our teams are so good at caring and loving folks, right where they are. To lose this in our community would be a detriment to those we serve, but also to those who come to serve. The camaraderie of our teams, united in the goal of loving others well, is what makes our teams so strong and impactful.”

A new partnership with Primary Health Services has expanded the possibilities of medical assistance to those in need. One aspect of the new partnership is a mobile dental unit, which proved life-changing for one mother and her son, whose abscess tooth left him miserable. Medicare and Medicaid weren’t sufficient for the dental care they needed, but FISH bridged the gap and made relief possible. After all was said and done, it was the boy’s smile that said it all.

Salem Church of God and FISH put smiles on many other faces, too. Their strategic partnership also surely puts a smile on the face of our Lord.

Learn more about Northmont FISH at www.northmontfish.org. Learn more about the Church of God movement at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.

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