By Rev. Sean McIntyre
Pastor of Outreach Ministries at Salem UMC in St. Louis
Once the pandemic became a reality here in the St. Louis area, Salem’s staff and lay leaders knew that this would bring about great struggle for many. Far too many would have to endure job loss, furlough, decrease in hours, or decrease in pay. Families would also be unable to rely on schools for meals and daily childcare. Our attention quickly turned to putting boots on the ground to keep people fed. Haven Street meal ministry operates out of the basement of our South-City Site, The Connection, and typically serves sit-down meals twice per week. However, with the inability to gather inside, Haven Street outreach switched to a curbside model beginning in March. Since then we have given out over 4,000 meals to the South St. Louis community.
We have partnered with Epworth to give non-perishables to their food pantry in North St. Louis County, and Salem has also continued to offer regular meals to youth who find themselves on the streets, feeding around 2,000 people through this ministry. To help the work being done with our partner agencies, we held a good old-fashioned food drive collecting over $3000 worth of non-perishables for food distribution at Epworth and LifeWise STL. We are continuing to collect for these ministries at our drive-thru communion days. We sponsored two weeks of food distribution for LifeWise providing necessities for over 850 people. Our men’s ministry, who lovingly call themselves the Holy Smokers, have also smoked roughly 850 chickens for the food distributions at Epworth and LifeWise STL so far this year. In the summer time, our South-City Site is a campus for the Freedom School program that served over 7,000 meals to children in the area.
We are so delighted to be able to feed our community, but the need is not slowing down. In fact, it is only growing. As the community’s approach to life in the midst of a pandemic evolves, where and how we provide will undoubtedly alter, but our presence will not. The church is needed outside of the building now more than ever, and Salem is garnering all the resources we can to continue to “connect all people with God’s extravagant love” in the St. Louis area.