Numerous congregations going above and beyond with their outreach efforts this year

Embracing the spirit of the season, several local churches have taken their Christmas outreach projects and offerings to a new scale in order to help the less fortunate in the community.

Love INC (In the Name of Christ), through which many charitable efforts this time of year are funneled, was asked what its biggest needs were by leaders from Family Life Church.

Officials told church organizers that the Newberg Women’s Shelter needed funding to cover its $9,000 annual operating budget and that the shelter’s recently donated playground needed to replace its gravel with rubber mats to create a safer environment.

Family Life’s answer was simple: No problem.

Since then, the $15,500 it will cost to cover Love INC’s needs have been the focus of Family Life’s Christmas outreach or “Big Give 2013.”

“It’s very unusual,” Love INC executive assistant Shaina Farrer said of the grand gesture. “I have not seen it since I’ve worked here.”

In recent years, Family Life has directed its Christmas outreach toward Toys for Tots and a mission organization in India, but chose this year to focus on its own community.

Big Give 2013 will also install a family picnic area at the shelter and has been gathering donations of food for Love INC’s breakfast bag ministry.

Family Life is by no means the only local church thinking big this winter or to reach out to Love INC.

St. Peter Catholic Church, for example, is donating the gifts from its giving tree to Love INC.

“We are already getting a flood of donations coming in,” Farrer said. “We get PGE gift cards for $50, we get gas cards and we get local business gift cards that we can give the shelter girls or anyone who comes in that needs food. They give us pillows and toasters and coffee pots. It’s crazy the amount of stuff they give us.”

When it comes to Newberg First United Methodist Church’s holiday outreach tradition, it’s more accurate to think heavy, than big, as each year it purchases two tons of potatoes for the Christmas boxes distributed by Newberg F.I.S.H.

After years of providing potatoes, First United Methodist, which features around 20 regular F.I.S.H. volunteers, has the operation down to a science, according to outreach coordinator Karen McGillivray.

“We used to each bring in some potatoes, which meant you carry them into the church, put them down in the barrel. Then someone else has to lean into the barrel, pick out the potatoes and carry them out to the car. With 4,000 pounds of potatoes, that’s a lot of bending and stooping, so now we pay for the potatoes and our people from F.I.S.H. take them.”

First United Methodist has been packing weekend backpacks of food, consisting of two loaves of bread, peanut butter and jelly, for about 30 families and neighboring Mabel Rush Elementary School. The church also reached out to those families to see if they were in need of something over the two-week winter break and has responded preparing boxes of its own, featuring meat, eggs, baking supplies, vegetables and more, that will be picked up at the church after Christmas.

After raising $15,000 for last year’s Christmas offering, which bested its goal by $2,000, Northside Community Church is aiming for $17,000 this year.

Pastor Jeff Getsinger presented his congregation with a “$5/40 Day Challenge,” hoping to motivate churchgoers to think about giving in a new way.

By breaking it down to giving $5 a day over 40 days, a donation of $200 seems a lot more manageable. The challenge was flexible so that giving could be according to each person or family’s means, but the point was to make a commitment that stretches them, therefore expanding their faith.

The approach seems to have struck a chord, as $16,800 had been donated as of Friday.

Once again, the offering will be converted into gift cards and redistributed to congregants so they “can be on the lookout for people they can bless this Christmas season.”

Getsinger said the money will be split, with at least $10,000 going to gift cards and $5,000 to Northside’s church plant in McMinnville.

“It’s been a good year for us,” Getsinger said.

It’s very fun, very exciting. It’s been fun to watch our people engage in it and then they were really looking forward to doing it again this year.

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