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A Perfect Match!

by Pat Taylor, member of Mission Hills United Church of Christ

     The forecast – rain for several days, including Christmas, was welcomed by gardening enthusiasts and a city in desperate need of water.  But what of those for whom winter weather is a consuming challenge, the homeless who, with neither proper clothing nor a place to retreat from the rain, live on San Diego’s streets?

     Enter HOPE in the guise of Mission Hills United Church of Christ..
     The San Diego Winter Shelter opened in early December.  Located this year in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood, it offers over 200 beds for emergency shelter and a variety of other vital services for homeless adults from December through March.  As guests are allowed and encouraged to stay at the shelter during the day, it, in contrast to many others, serves as a safe and warm home for the winter.

     To further its commitment to mission and outreach and service to the local community, Mission Hills UCC has had a long relationship with Alpha Project for the Homeless, which sets up and runs the winter shelter.  When several members of the Mission and Outreach Ministry Team visited the shelter last year, they were impressed by the warmth and dignity afforded each guest and asked what was needed for the coming year.   Alpha Project president, Bob McElroy, suggested new sheets or plush toys, emphasizing “new” as our homeless neighbors rarely get anything not previously used.  And, while Alpha Project is able to provide blankets, unless guests have their own bedding, they must sleep on mattresses wrapped in plastic.

     As part of the church’s Centennial celebration, the team set a goal of collecting 100 new twin size sheet sets to present when the winter shelter opened, and, with an eye to motivating the congregation, positioned a tent in the Chancel, next to the communion table.  Donations were placed in the tent over a 4-week period, filling it to overflowing with a colorful array of sheets.  By December 1st, 106 new sheet sets and 22 pillows had been collected.  Taken to the shelter the Monday it opened, they were placed on tables and guests invited to make a choice.  They were thrilled!  One woman, who selected zebra patterned sheets, instructed us to tell the donor how pleased she was with them.  Another guest commented that his new blue sheets were the first new thing he had received in a very long time.  The gratitude and joy these simple gifts brought was overwhelming!

     This mission project speaks to the soul of the Mission Hills congregation.  Not only have we noted our personal blessings, but feel the incredible joy of giving to those who simply had a different turn of events in their lives.  We want this spirit of giving to continue and know that Alpha Project will always provide wonderful partnership in our community.   Hopefully, prayerful consideration will reveal our next steps.

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