Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
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Outreach Ministry

  Outreach Garden Award Recipient, Marifran Bustion

 FACETS Feeding 

ECHO Toy Drive 

SERVICE

Outreach Committee – Our Outreach Committee works to oversee the various ways we serve the community around us as we strive to Serve Christ in Others.  This is the most tangible way we go Now Into the World.  These ministries include: Green Team (our neighborhood clean-up team); School Physicals; Backpack Supplies; Crestwood E.S. Food Program; Hypothermia Prevention Program; United Thank Offering; ECHO Garden; ECHO Food and clothing donations; ECHO Toy Drive; FACETS Food delivery to the homeless (bi-monthly).

Ministry in the Wider Church St. Christopher’s is part of the South Fairfax Region of the Diocese of Virginia.  Both the Region and the Diocese have legislative bodies which require participation from member parishes.  This is an opportunity to find out what goes on around us – and how we can be part of something larger.

Vestry- This is a group of 10 elected individuals who are responsible for the health and well-being of our parish.  Service here is of the utmost importance for our continued mission and ministry.

Projects overseen by the committee include the following by time of year starting in January:

Hypothermia Prevention Program (winter)—through a contract with Fairfax County, FACETS solicits shelter sites for the coldest months of the year.  For the ninth year in a row St. C’s participated in this program, hosting homeless guests for one week in late January.  Volunteer parishioners participated in a myriad of tasks that included purchasing, preparing and serving meals; donating funds; making reminder calls; hosting evenings by spending part of a night(s); providing entertainment; cleaning up each morning for Preschool classes; and many other tasks.  Some 60-70 folks volunteer and host 30-35 guests.  The schedule is for the last week in January/February; planning begins each summer.  There are opportunities for everyone in the parish.  Donations are needed each year to cover costs.  Parishioner Katy Dunlap was the overall coordinator.

Outreach Vegetable Garden—2020 was the 8th year for St. Christopher’s Outreach Garden. Starting in 2013, when we supplied ECHO with 138 pounds of fresh produce, The Outreach Garden produced, and we delivered over 400 pounds of produce to ECHO. In addition to our traditional vegetables of zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, green beans, beets, and radishes, this year we also harvested potatoes and butternut squash. Always on the lookout for more vegetables to try, we also keep in mind that ECHO cannot store these in refrigerators so we don’t plant greens or other similar vegetables. We also learn what doesn’t do well in our soil—after 2-3 years of trying carrots, tomatillos, and cayenne peppers, we had very little to show for our efforts, so these are now on the “do not plant” list. From our garden, ECHO provided food to over 100 families, which was especially appreciated during the pandemic. For the first time, we provided example recipes in both English and Spanish.  Volunteers for working in the garden are always appreciated, whether planting, harvesting, weeding, or cleaning up at the end. Please contact Marifran Bustion, who lovingly starts all plants in the church garden from seeds in her home greenhouse and offers any leftovers to any parishioner for a donation.  Parishioners are also welcome to contact her about excess home garden produce, which can be provided to ECHO as well.

Mother’s/Father’s Days Toiletries Drive(May/June)—These are usually held each year and over 20 bags were donated and delivered to Samaritan Ministry of Greater Washington.

ECHO Food Drive (July)—Each year the committee requests dry food donations to fill ECHO’s food pantry.  Over 40 bags were donated this year!  Bags are provided with a suggested shopping list.  Several groups donated eight Thanksgiving baskets to ECHO clients also.  Pam Osborne coordinated the Thanksgiving Basket effort this year.

School Physicals and School Supply Drive (August)—Committee members assist in collecting and preparing backpacks for free school physicals hosted in conjunction with the Fairfax County Health Department in early August.  Many parishioners collect supplies, help stuff backpacks, make reminder calls and assist on the day of the physicals.  This free service assists uninsured students to meet the required physical for starting public school.  Several churches donate money and supplies that go into each backpack.  A grade-appropriate backpack with supplies is given to each child getting a physical.  Over 90 physicals were completed in 2013 at the location we host.  Excess supplies are donated to area schools and ECHO.  Several other churches donate funds and supplies.  Thanks to Don and Lynn Knox for coordinating this event.

United Thank Offering or UTO (November)—The Episcopal Church-sanctioned annual collection occurs just before Thanksgiving each year with folks donating money or coins collected from their “blue boxes,” which are filled year-round by dropping a coin in the box for blessings received.  We donated $914 this year. These funds are combined into millions of dollars to fund projects domestically/internationally.  Go to www.episcopalchurch.org/united-thank-offering to find out more.

ECHO Toy Drive (December)—On the Sunday closest to the Feast of St. Nicholas Sunday (Dec. 6th), parishioners donate cash and toys to the ECHO Toy Drive to allow their clients to “shop” for Christmas.  This year St. Christopher’s held a “drive-thru” Nativity animal event (camel, donkey, sheep, goats) for people to donate and view our animals.  It was a resounding success.  We collected over $1600 in cash (for which toys were purchased from Discovery and Walmart) and an additional $2,000 worth of toys.  These were donated to ECHO, which took orders and provided toys to over 600 children.  ECHO hopes to return to offering clients to shop in its holiday store in 2021.

School Weekend Backpack Program  For the third year, St. Christopher’s parishioners have generously provided single-service food donations to use in the Power Pack Program or P3, a nationwide program of providing food to school-age children with little food to tide them over the weekend.  After a period of collecting suggested food items, more than 15 members worked to assemble bags containing two breakfasts/lunches/dinners, two snacks, and two drinks. St. Christopher’s provided 105 weekend bags of food to Crestwood Elementary School in February 2019, and another 161 bags were provided earlier this month.  Parishioners are encouraged to buy items from the suggested food donations list throughout the year and bring them to the church.  We look forward to continuing this important program, which serves some of our youngest neighbors in need.

FACETS Feeding Dinner to Homeless People in Fairfax (Year-round)—Every other month on the fourth Thursday, volunteers coordinated by Janet Bush cook a meal, pack it and deliver it to folks who are fed each day by volunteer folks from various groups.  The food is paid for by our own Linda Meagher Fund, cooked in our kitchen (or part of the year in home kitchens) and delivered in FACETS vans.  Usually, some 40-90 folks are fed each evening, which increased to 150-170 folks during the pandemic. 

Outreach to our brothers and sisters in need is a major effort of St. Christopher’s.  There are numerous projects each year in which our parishioners can and are encouraged to participate.  These efforts have long been a part of the fabric of the parish and have been recognized by the Bishop of Virginia, who awarded the Bishop’s Outreach award to St. Christopher’s.  The year 2020 was very different and challenging due to the pandemic.  In order to minimize exposure of the COVID-19 virus, we shifted emphasis to safety-controlled food donations and postponed most of our typical public service projects.   

The Outreach Committee of St. Christopher’s coordinates these efforts and is charged with working with internal and external groups to serve those in our community in need.  Members are interested parishioners who are dedicated to our various projects and organizations.  Our goal is to involve the widest possible participation in our outreach projects.  2020 saw a significant increase in Outreach Committee planning meetings and communications, taking advantage of Zoom for convenience as well as safety.  We invite anyone interested to contact the chair to join the committee’s efforts. 

As Christ calls us to minister to the homeless, orphaned, widows and prisoners, we have a variety of opportunities as ministers to serve by making donations, helping at our varied events or making reminder calls.  There are tasks that abound for every gift and person all year long.   Please minister when called!

For the committee, 

Richard Sellers, Chair

January 2021