Saturday was proof that it definitely takes lots of hands to do God’s work in the community!

Members and friends of both Zion Lutheran and Big Spring United Lutheran churches came together to celebrate “God’s Work. Our Hands” Day, a day set aside each year by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to celebrate who they are -- one church, freed in Christ to serve and love their neighbors.

Several events were taking place at Big Spring United Lutheran Church including a clothing drive, food drive, blood drive, and a band concert. The clothing drive benefited Community Aid, the food drive helped to stock the shelves of the Big Spring Area Food Bank, the blood drive organized by the Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank will help countless individuals around the mid-state, and the Shippensburg Swing Band provided a band concert that was music to the ears of anyone in attendancevwith uplifting, toe-tapping music. Saturday’s events also helped support the Big Spring PAW Packs program, a weekend food distribution program in the Big Spring School District.

The church has celebrated this special day in various ways throughout the years, but this year was quite different due to COVID-19. In keeping with CDC guidelines, everyone wore a mask and did a great job keeping socially distanced, even the band played on the front lawn, and kept space between one another to allow the music to flow evenly throughout the parking lot.

According to Julie Barrick, one of the organizers of this year’s event, “Members of the local Lutheran churches have come together over the years to paint, garden, send cards and a host of other activities to participate in this nationwide event. It’s a way for us to give back to the community by doing different things to help support our neighbors.”

She said each year, the committee comes up with different ideas as to what activities and events they can do for this special day. This year, due to the pandemic, they had to be really creative. “It’s been a little more work to figure out what we were going to do, but we knew that we didn’t want to cancel the event. That’s the last thing we wanted to do because everyone needs to be able to come out and enjoy something this summer. We decided that whatever we were going to do, it would have to be outdoors where we could be in compliance with all of the guidelines,” Barrick explained.

The Big Spring Area Food Bank was an important focus of the “God’s Work. Our Hands” event this year.

According to director Shani Holleran Shenk, the food bank is definitely in need of donations.

“Today’s food drive will go a long way in helping feed local families. We have received a lot of mac & cheese today,” Shenk chuckled, but it is good, especially this time of year for kids going back to school -- it’s a quick and easy meal. We have also received numerous other items, which will help replenish our supply.”

She said the number of families visiting the food bank increased slightly in August. Their numbers are typically lower in the summer months and then begin to creep back up once kids go back to school, and then again when the holidays roll around. She said the number of families visiting the food bank hasvremained historically the same even with the pandemic; however, because of the situation, especially in March and April, they weren’t able to get their normal supply of food from the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank due to the demand.

“When we weren’t able to receive our typical shipment, I had to look within the community for help in replenishing our shelves and thus feeding local families. I reached out to Saylor’s Market here in town, and they were phenomenal! They donated all of the brown bags that we are using to help distribute food to families, and they also set up a display cart at the front of the store for people to drop off supplies when they did their shopping which worked out very well. She said in addition to Saylor’s setting up a display cart, they also donated over $2,000 worth of food and supplies!

Employees from Newville Borough also pitched in to help. Shenk explained that normally the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank delivers their supplies right to the food bank, but because of the pandemic, they had to change the way they do things. She said the guys arranged to have the donated supplies from Saylor’s delivered here to the food bank, which was a huge help!

“It’s been a very different year to say the least,” Shenk noted. “But, it is what it is and we’ve adapted to the changing times.” She said prior to COVID, people would have to stand in line waiting outside, and then come inside and choose the items they wanted. When COVID hit, they began serving families curbside, which meant they would have to wait in line, in their cars.”

The church as a whole has adapted to the new normal, and in return, has found new and creative ways to reach their flock. According to Pastor Molly Haggerty, a core group of individuals has continually come up with new ideas of how to stay in touch with the church family and community, and they have been pleasantly surprised with the response.

“We actually did Vacation Bible School via Zoom this summer. There were five rural churches that we call the Bloserville Fellowship. We had the teenagers video the skits and people Zoomed in to watch, and then we had a group of volunteers who would pack the VBS craft and activity kits, and then another group of volunteers literally drove the kits around to the houses of the 15 families that participated, which covered a 15-mile radius, and the kids could then participate in doing the projects,” Haggerty explained. She said the theme was Recycle and Renew, and they provided the children with seeds for them to plant their own little gardens. They also made artwork using items in the yard and different things, and then made videos showing all the different items and how things had progressed throughout the summer. Haggerty said it was a really neat idea that the kids and their families loved! They plan to keep the concept going throughout the fall and winter months, as well, with others joining in the fun!

The group is optimistic that their creative juices will continue to flow and the church will continue to grow and flourish during these very different times we are currently experiencing. Just goes to show that nothing is impossible through God’s work and willing hands!

For more information on Big Spring United Lutheran, visit: https://www.bsulc.org/visit_us. For more information on Zion Lutheran Church, visit: http://www.zionnewville.org/.

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