When the youth group at Hampton United Methodist Church realized that there was a need in their community for items that couldn’t be purchased with food stamps, they decided to do something about it.
That was back in 2013, and the Hampton Clean Up Closet has been in operation ever since.
It all started with a mission trip, and the youth decided that they could do something to help people in poverty in their own community. The adults in the church quickly helped them find ways to make it happen.
“I thought that was an interesting approach,” said Sue Kromminga, Director of Discipleship at Hampton UMC. “We have a fabulous food pantry here in town, but the youth chose the items that the food pantry does not stock and families cannot use their food stamps to purchase.”
Things like toilet paper, toothbrushes and diapers are available once a month, and if there is an emergency situation, people know to come to the church office for assistance.
While Sue wasn’t at the church when the Clean Up Closet was started, she says the concept is still amazing to her every day.
“So often the adults come up with the ideas and then want to youth or someone else to run with them,” she said. “In Hampton, it was the youth coming up with the concept and the adults running the program.”
Community Café reaches poor of spirit
That’s not the only way the church is helping to reduce poverty in its community. They also host a free Community Café held weekly during the school year.
Kromminga says the church is involved with about 20 different businesses, organizations and churches in the community to make this mission happen.
“A few years ago the congregation remodeled the kitchen and fellowship area with the intent of serving a free meal,” she said. “Now, we have between 125 and 200 people that get a meal and enjoy the company of others every Thursday.”
She added that it’s not only the financially poor that are being served.
“We have a high senior population, and many people with mental health concerns,” she said. “We make sure everyone that is isolated or lonely gets a meal each week, even if it means a personal delivery.”
Kromminga estimates that about 150-200 people are involved in some kind of ministry at Hampton UMC, and that the community partnership is an important building piece in those ministries.
At the heart of it all? Love.
“Love the people,” Kromminga said. “If you just love, even if it's someone coming in the door, and let them talk and you will see where something at the church can fit into what their needs are. That's all you have to do.”