Picnic Connects Communities

Members of the community standing around the grill.

St. Michael’s Community in Delaware, Ohio, is one of the 12 low-income housing communities in Ohio that are a part of the mission and ministry of United Church Homes. Individuals in these communities must be 65 or older and their monthly income must be less than 130 percent of the area’s poverty line in order to meet HUD’s resident requirements. Each community has a manager, maintenance personnel and a service coordinator who helps to connect the residents with the resources in their area to help with their individual needs.

Rev. Janine Wilson, Association minister for Central Southeast Ohio Association, knew about St. Michael’s Community firsthand as her mother had been a resident there prior to her death several years ago. Being a resident of Delaware herself, Janine had an idea last spring: What if the three UCC churches who are all within an 18-mile radius of St. Michael’s met there some Sunday after church for a picnic? She contacted the pastors of Zion UCC, Delaware, First Congregational UCC, Marysville, and Radnor Congregational, Radnor and shared the idea. John Peterson, Linda Meredith and Dan Bill, the respective pastors of those congregations, took the idea and ran with it. They shared the idea with the churches and Jane, the manager of St. Michael’s, spread the word with the residents.

Community members lining up for food at the BBQOn a very hot August 30, it was easy for the members of the churches to bring a joint potluck/BBQ lunch to St. Michael’s residents. Although it was a little crowded inside, there was room for all in the air conditioning and more than enough food for the church members and the 35 residents as they enjoyed the fellowship and meal. “It was easy,” Janine says, “because the members of the congregations know how to “do” potluck and there were more than enough to help with the clean-up.”

The members of the churches had opportunity to interact with each other, as well. One outcome from the day came from a member of the Radnor church, who suggested that the three congregations worship together. So in 2016, they will gather in Marysville for a celebration of worship. In 2017 they will look for another opportunity in Radnor and they plan to gather together back in Delaware in 2017.

Members of the community posing for a pictureIn the meantime, the residents were so pleased with the day, they would be ready for another picnic some time next spring. The residents of all the UCH housing communities are independent, but welcome connections with others. Sharing a potluck/BBQ is just one way that local congregations can be in direct mission with these vulnerable elders. Do you have a music group in your congregation? Take your choir cantata on the road to a housing community. Do you need an intergenerational opportunity for your youth group? Sponsor a game night and take your board games and snacks to a housing community room near you. Talk with the manager or service coordinator to find out about specific ideas or needs of how your congregation can be in touch with the elders near you!

For more information about the location of the 12 housing communities in Ohio and the 47 others in 12 additional states, visit our website: unitedchurchhomes.org