Costner-Fulton Grants Give Boost to Local Church Ministry


The Costner-Fulton Fund for Missions is a grant program of the Mission, Service and Justice Team. Tom and LaVerne Fulton shared a passion for social work in their professional lives. Their activism was a calling, rooted in faith and given further expression through the outreach ministries of The United Methodist Church. It is not surprising that this dedicated couple created an estate plan that would continue to reach out to a world in need.

This past year the Missouri Conference received many applications for grants. The following are the churches with projects that the team chose to fund. 

Grace UMC – Sullivan
This program seeks to meet the three most-discussed needs of homeless individuals in their community: hunger, hygiene and housing. Their mission is to ensure that these needs are met for as many of the 200 homeless individuals in the community as possible. These individuals are often ignored and neglected in our town, state, and society at large. They hope to address what they have been told by people in homeless situations are their greatest needs and to provide for them as many resources as possible to enable their success.
Kirkwood UMC
Kirkwood UMC seeks to launch a new ministry this fall called LifeBridge. This program is heavily modeled on the work done by LifeWise STL (formerly Kingdom House) to help families achieve economic wellbeing and transition out of poverty through high-impact programming. They are seeking to build on programs that have already achieved great success in the city of St. Louis and offer them to residents in their community, particularly the area of Meacham Park which is a historically African-American community within Kirkwood. If successful, in the long-term they would love to partner with other local congregations to assist them in offering similar services to their communities. 

Maplewood UMC
MUMC is known for its strong partnership with the Maplewood-Richmond Heights Schools Freedom School. MUMC’s primary emphasis in this partnership is to provide material, financial, and in-person support for the district’s wrap-around services which offer support to students and families who face socio-economic struggles. A Freedom School is a six-week, full-day, literacy enrichment program for elementary and secondary students. 
The program has its roots in the Freedom Summer of 1964 and has for many years been coordinated by the Children’s Defense Fund. Modestly claiming to reduce the typical regression of academic skills over the summer (which research has shown to affect low-income students disproportionately), FSs demonstrably improve reading performance for scholars who complete the program. For years the long-range dream of MUMC has been to work in the name of Christ toward the transformation of the world by serving alongside individuals and organizations in the local community to seek the common good of all citizens — with particular emphasis upon caring for those who are the most vulnerable.

Samaritan UMC
A joint project of the Asbury and Samaritan congregations located in the inner-core of St. Louis, the church plans to expand the existing ministry partnership with Biome School. The two congregations originally adopted Biome Charter School as a school partner in partnership with the Conference Pathway Out of Poverty initiative.

St. Luke’s UMC
Senior Connections: The majority of families in the neighborhoods served by the church are aged 60 and above. There are not a lot of programs that serve this age group in the area, and even less in an age of COVID-19. With loneliness being high on the list of our existence these days, it is important to provide opportunities to create community and connection, especially among seniors. The St. Luke’s congregation is primarily seniors and believe that they can use this as a connection point with the community.

Trinity UMC Moberly
This new ministry is Trinity Third Thursday Senior Night. Based on a Mission Insite analysis, “Small Town Shallow Pockets” is a population that makes up 34.1% of Moberly, but only 6.8% of Trinity. This identified population is described as often living in quiet, deteriorating neighborhoods; they identify with the church as a center for socializing and personal support with meals helping to supplement their diets in providing fresh, nutritional foods; and since some struggle to make ends meet, especially in an emergency, they benefit from mutual support along with social service ministries. Trinity is located within a mile of a low-income senior living building as well as lower rent homes. Trinity is poised to offer a nutritious meal, a time of socialization, and a message of hope through word and music in a casual setting at a time when other agencies are not open.

Webster Hills UMC
Freedom School summer literacy program for middle school students in the community with poor proficiency and academic performance.
The six week daily program would run mid-June through July 2022. Overall literacy rates are falling nationwide and are linked to children, especially those in underserved areas, not developing sufficient reading proficiency. 
Research shows that third grades who don’t read well are four times more likely to drop out of school. MAP scores for the school district near Webster Hills shows 30% of third-grade Black students read at a proficient level compared to 62% of all the third graders. In addition, this project provides an important outreach vehicle for the congregation and one that relates to the highest areas of interest expressed in a congregational survey – children and education.