Parker Hill Community Church Uses Brand New Coats to Build Community
At Parker Hill Community Church, they say, “Every 1 Matters.” It is this guiding statement that has influenced the church for the past few years. “Building an authentic community is important to both congregants and leaders,” says Steve Brown, the Executive Pastor of Development at Parker Hill, a multi-site ministry located in Northeast Pennsylvania.
This commitment to community outreach was especially evident last winter. In 2017, the congregation formed the “Bundle Up” Program and raised thousands of dollars. They used the funds to deliver brand new winter coats to children in their community through local schools and organizations.
The people of the church and community embraced the program with overwhelming support. “The Sunday before distribution we had no less than 50 volunteers sorting sizes of coats,” Brown says. Organizations serving children in need could come to the campus to pick up the new coats, or teams of church volunteers went into the schools to deliver them.
Building Relationships with Schools and Community
Whenever possible, Parker Hill arranged for the children’s teachers to be the ones to give students the brand new Operation Warm coats. “We wanted the teachers to be the heroes.” Brown says. They wanted to honor the teachers while providing warmth, confidence and hope to their kids. In addition to providing the brand new coats, the church also provided breakfast to teachers and administrators.
“Here was the neatest thing,” Brown mentions about how their outreach was received. “When we first approached the schools, you could hear the doubt, ‘Who was this church coming and what were they doing?’” When Parker Hill explained that they wanted to provide the children, entire schools in some cases, with brand new Operation Warm coats the mood changed. “Everyone thanked us, and they continue to thank us.”
Bringing the Barriers Down
“When a school community says, ‘It is nice to know the church cares,’ that is when you know that you’ve won,” Brown says. “That is when you see those barriers come down.”
Parker Hill wants to do more than serve the community, they want to build relationships. Their mission statement stresses “The pursuit of Next Steps, because we believe everyone has a next step in their journey of faith.” It is by creating a path and not a program that will make Bundle Up become a legacy of community success.
“It is really an entry point for us,” Brown says. “We really want to provide a connection. The children in our community put a note into each coat to say, ‘We want you to know we are all here for you.’”
Operation Warm Coats Perfectly Align with the Church Mission
“The Operation Warm Coats for Kids program goes hand and hand with our mission, because we want to build a relationship with the schools—we want to show them that we are for the kids and that we are supportive of the schools. The more than we can be a partner, the more we can strengthen those relationships,” Pastor Brown says.
A Mission Everyone Can Get Behind
Brown says their original goal was 1,500 coats, but they quickly blew that goal out of the water. “The support of our church was ginormous,” he says. “It doubled the amount of participation compared to a different project that we did 2016. [The congregation] knowing about Operation Warm and the heart-felt need made it successful—that and their belief that there shouldn’t be any kids without a coat.”
“The people in our church –their generosity was amazing,” Brown continues. “We were presenting it every single week, and we saw the amount of funds increase week over week.” Parker Hill Community Church raised enough funds to provide more than 3,100 coats!
At first, Brown wasn’t sure how they would handle the tremendous increase in the number of coats they could give, although he admits, “It was a good problem to have.” Operation Warm stepped in to help with its online tool that helps identify local schools in need.
More schools meant more connections with the church, too. “A lot of neat stories came out,” Brown says. “We actually had a teacher in one of the schools we reached out to who was excitedly telling others, ‘Hey, that’s my church!’”
“There was so much great communication,” he says. “I loved how [Operation Warm] was able to reach out to the schools. There was good timing and a quick response back when we needed to order more coats.”
“We definitely want to do it again.”
Interested in providing brand new coats for kids in your community? We would love for you to join us as an Operation Warm Community Partner!