Minsitry Report: Faith Food Fridays

A Blog Post from FCCV member Suzanne Awalt on her recent volunteer work with Faith Food Fridays, which she connected with through FCCV's partnership with the Vallejo Together Interfaith Coalition on Homelessness.

It’s Thursday morning at Faith Food Fridays (FFF). I have checked in with Mary Ann Buggs and signed a consent form for my volunteer gig as a member of Vallejo Together Interfaith Coalition on Homelessness. Before me is a sea of produce boxes stacked on tables in an off-set pattern. Rosa is the volunteer who strategically arranges the pattern so each box can be accessed. I learn that today we have 186 food boxes that, once filled by today’s volunteers, will be distributed Friday morning, no questions asked, to FFF clients who regularly come to the Solano Avenue facility. The physical space is tight, but the mood is light and our leader, Benjamin Buggs, sets a tone of joy and compassion in a ministry that he has shepherded and grown over 11 years. Today I am directed to place one bag of dried pinto beans in each box. Ann, a seasoned volunteer, suggests I use a shopping cart to carry the boxes and save a few steps. The task of box-filling is scheduled for 9a-2p each Thursday. My shift is 10a-12p. At any one time there are 4-7 volunteers. Benjamin tells me that volunteers come from varied walks of life—persons working off community service; high school students, church groups……so the mood can be altered by the mood and intention of the volunteer. Today the mood is very light and purposeful. Everyone is so helpful to me, the novice. But I quickly learn that this is only Carrie’s second time volunteering and Desiree started only a couple of weeks ago. We develop a rhythm. Periodically, Benjamin cheerily sings out, “Rule number one, don’t block the walk-way!!” Oops, that’s me! Have to take my cart and move on.

Into the boxes go rice, beans, boxed milk, canned meat, baked goods, potatoes, apples, and so on. There are pallets and crates of boxed and bagged food stuffs all around us. There is also a large walk-in cold storage locker. Benjamin has cultivated a relationship with Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano which links FFF to grocery stores and other sources of bulk foods.  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, trucks fan out for grocery store pick-ups and Food Bank donations around town. Boxes are distributed on Fridays and Sundays. This same well-choreographed “dance” occurs 7 days a week year-round. There is a surplus of boxed milk this week, so Benjamin directs us to place a second one in each food box. I stay until after noon. Rev Dionne Carter from Vallejo Together has come to volunteer. So nice to meet her outside the Zoom screen. Benjamin has prepared lunch. His collard greens with garlic and pork belly are delicious. Each of us receives a FFF t-shirt. This is satisfying work. One thing I realize I forgot to do is to sign-out. Forgiveness is in ample supply here at FFF, so I know I will meet the same warm welcome next time. I definitely will return on future Thursdays. Need I say that volunteers are always welcome at Faith Food Fridays? They are. Talk to me if you want to know more.
 
P.S. Did you know that FCCV donates some of our garden produce to FFF? Glenda Goode makes the deliveries.

Mission Action Updates

Monthly Gift

The August Mission Action Gift will go to the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. For many years the church has been supporting the Vallejo-Benicia Relay for Life in some way or another. For a few years in a row we had a team that would set up at the relay, walk the track, and raise money for the American Cancer Society. The last few years, while we have not had a team, many of our members have participated by going to the Relay and walking, buying raffle tickets (and winning raffles!), making luminarias, and donating to the cause. While the church will make a $200 gift, we encourage you all to hit the track and do what you can to help!

The Relay For Life runs from 9am on Saturday August 6th to 9am on Sunday August 7th at St. Patrick - St. Vincent High School in Vallejo. Food will be available for purchase throughout the entire event. Hope to see you there! Check out the event details here:

Food Pantry - TLC

Did you know that each Sunday for months, our members George and Rebecca Morris, and Amanda Trujillo, have been diligently filling the free food pantry with MRE's and snacks for our neighbors in need! Others have been stocking it every few days with toiletries, socks, and other necessities. It is a wonderful addition to our peace garden!

Now that George, Rebecca, and Amanda have moved away, it is up to us to continue the good work! I would like to form a group that will be able to keep the pantry stocked. Also, it could really use some cosmetic TLC. If you would like to help out, please let me know. I will reach out next month to set up a meeting so we can talk logistics!

Common Ground Accountability Action

As you all know this is an election year and along with it being mid-term season, we have some local races for City Council and the Solano County Board of Supervisors happening too! On October 12th (time & location tbd) we will hold an in person (fingers crossed!) Accountability Action with the candidates of the Council & Board. Here we will inform them of our agenda and ask them to work with us should they get elected. It is just another tool on our belt to building power in Vallejo! In the next few months we will be sending out invites and setting up meetings to prepare for the Action. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for more info!

Mission Action Updates

The Rainbow Community Center in Concord was selected to receive our June Mission Action gift. From their website, “Rainbow Community Center builds community, equity, & well-being among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning & Intersex (LGBTQIA+) people & our allies.  Since 1995, we have been offering support & social opportunities to the LGBTQIA+ community & its allies.”  While some of their programs are still curtailed due to COVID, they offer community mental health services, HIV education and prevention, Kind Hearts food pantry, youth and adult support programs, houseless transitional youth program, and senior programs. Learn more at https://www.rainbowcc.org/ .

Our July gift will be going to Vallejo Together. Founded in 2010, Vallejo Together strives to lead and support the healthy development of our community working in collaboration with our partners in the areas of business, culture, education, faith, government and safety. FCCV continues to explore how we can work with Vallejo Together as one of their faith partners towards their mission of fostering change, awakening hope and offering opportunities to neighbors and families impacted by homelessness and related crises. Find out more about the work they do at https://www.vallejotogethercommunity.org/ .


Common Groud Update

Common Ground Leaders recently met in our Sanctuary to talk together about our issue teams, our frustrations, our hopes, and our upcoming work.

Here are just a few things coming up:

-Accountability Action for City Council Candidates & Others - Tentative Date October 12th, 2022.
-During the Summer we will begin an Independent Donor Investment Campaign.
-Public Safety Team will have a study session for the Vallejo City Council which will be open to the public.
-Public Safety Team will have a meeting with all City Council candidates to teach them about our Civilian Oversight Ordinance.
-The Housing Team will continue to pressure Solano County to follow through with eviction protections.
-We are talking about having several neighborhood walks around the city in the fall.
-We will have house meetings and many many one on one conversations!

As you see, there is a lot happening in the life of Common Ground. As a dues paying member institution, First Christian Church is an owner of this organization and that means we have a voice and we are building our own power. Remember even if you do not attend a meeting, you can take ownership of this work! You should feel proud about what we are accomplishing.

As always, if anyone is interested in discussing more about Common Ground and our work, please do not hesitate to reach out!

Common Ground Updates

Common Ground is busy busy busy! Here is a list of our recent accomplishments:

*Met with Congressman Garamendi to discuss our work and ask him to work with us in the future.
*Met with Solano County Supervisors and staff to propose our plan for homeless prevention through eviction assistance.
*Drafted a Police Civilian Oversight Ordinance with advice from experts, impacted families, community members, and the police department.
*Met with all the City Council members to share our draft ordinance and received great feedback and support.
*Attended community meetings run by the City of Vallejo in their attempt to draft an Ordinance of their own.
*Held a retreat with over 30 people to teach and learn how to organize within the Catholic Church.
*Held an eviction assistance event at an all Spanish speaking Catholic church in Fairfield.
*Attended a statewide retreat with our sister IAF organizations to discuss the politics of the California economy.

That is really just a snippet of the work we have all been doing over the last few months, but it doesn't stop there! Our next steps include advocating for our eviction assistance proposal at the Supervisors meeting in May and pushing the city of Vallejo to put together a model for oversight (or use ours!) that has teeth!

As you all know all this works take a village and it takes money! While we do contribute to Common Ground as a congregation, you can always contribute as an individual. You can make this commitment by going to https://www.commongroundiaf.org/donate and make a one time or monthly donation. Stay tuned for more opportunities to give as we will be announcing some fundraisers in the next couple months!

You can find us at the following sites:

https://www.commongroundiaf.org/
https://twitter.com/bayareaiaf
https://www.facebook.com/CommonGroundIafCA/

Thank you for all your support!


Mission Action Updates

Outreach is alive and well at First Christian Church, Vallejo.

Here are some  recent ministry activities for which we can rejoice and be thankful.

On November 19, the church presented a Thanksgiving meals check in the amount of $475 to Ministers Benjamin and Mary Ann at Faith Food Fridays in Vallejo. This offering is the result of our gifts in lieu of our usual Thanksgiving luncheon.  The day the gift was made was a food distribution day and the line of clients snaked for a block up Solano Avenue. We have participated in providing a nourishing meal for local families. Thank you!!

On November 23, our 14 School Kits (compiled during our special Halloween worship service) arrived at Church World Service in Elkhart, IN. These kits will assist children around the world with needed supplies they cannot ordinarily access. They will know someone cares and celebrates the opportunity to be in school. 

Also, believe it or not, it is that time of year again! We will be accepting donations of new/unused socks and underwear for women, children and men. This is a great need, especially this time of year. We will have a box to collect donations in the sanctuary on Sunday mornings. They will be given to The Sparrow Project for distribution to people in need.

And don’t forget that our virtual Global Holiday Faire continues through the end of the year, and the Great Common Ground Bakeoff Dessert Auction was a huge success!