By Dan DeBrucker-Cota
Robinson Memorial Presbyterian Church
, located in the western suburbs of Syracuse NY
began a partnership with In My Father’s Kitchen
(IMFK) in the spring of 2015. In My Father’s Kitchen, a faith based organization, offers non-denominational direct street outreach in Syracuse, NY. This project spoke out to the congregation at Robinson Memorial as they began seeking new mission opportunities that were local to the congregation.
Robinson Memorial PC, not unlike many congregations, is aging. Robinson has an active Older Adult Ministry program that is well respected within the Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse
, and a growing congregation with the addition of a few smaller congregations who have “nested” at Robinson. The Mission Committee was challenged at looking at how to engage more human resources on local mission projects. In a conversation with John Tumino, founder of In My Father’s Kitchen, it was determined that Robinson Memorial would be best suited to make cookies for some weekly outreach efforts. This is a perfect program to utilize every congregation member.
In June of this year, Robinson Memorial was asked to make some cookie bags for the street outreach program. 80 cookies were made, bagged and included a hand written note of encouragement. This was a great effort of the congregation. “The cookies hopefully tagged a memory of home, family, feeling loved”, said Kathy Salsbury, a member of the congregation and one of the bakers.
Pastor Tracie Martin reflected “I was in the kitchen baking cookies because my friend asked me for some. My husband kept sneaking in for a taste. Generally my cookies look very chocolate whether I intended that or not; I am not a great baker. These, however, were perfect because I was not distracted.
Distractions come from many sources in my day, as in everyone’s life. This day I needed to fix something in the kitchen, write something for work, and deal with several more concerns. The cookies provided a welcome break. I found myself wondering just what kind of impact receiving my cookies might have for someone whose stresses and concerns are very different from mine. I’ll be honest. The needs of a homeless person were not on my front burner until Dan began raising the subject. As I baked and thought, I realized that I truly hope to be asked to bake again. I truly hope to keep the needs of people who lack the basics openly in my mind. It is all too easy to be consumed by my own life and its inconveniences and lose sight of a larger picture. Entering into a partnership with IMFK has become important to me. I will help me remain mindful.”
The outcome that we are striving for, not only to be a strong partner with In My Father’s Kitchen and the individuals they serve, but also to engage the entire congregation in some way. The idea became very clear when a congregation member was overheard stating that she made five-dozen cookies. This was a project that everyone could participate in. When we begin designing this project, we kept in mind that there are some folks who are home bound; and some who just obtained their new driver’s license. What a great combination we thought, we can ask members to write simple cards of encouragement; some to bake and ask the new drivers to make their rounds and collect all the items.
Our partnership is continuing to expand. We have begun collecting clothing and home items for the organization, along with asking congregation members to bring home the soaps and other travel items from hotels during their vacations.
The congregation has a big and welcoming heart. We simply are not as young as we were, and with many having limited mobility, at best, many other hands-on mission projects are unobtainable. This is a project for all ages, and all talents.
Dan DeBrucker-Cota is a Ruling Elder, worshiping at Robinson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Syracuse, also a current Board Member to The Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness and full-time student at SUNY Empire State College pursuing a BA in Community and Human Services.