KENNETT SQUARE >> More than 25 churches in Southern Chester County recently came together to partner to help needy local families.
A new project called Give-Serve-Restore, created by The Constellation Network, a Southern Chester County nonprofit based in Kennett Square has helped to create a greater awareness of the problem needy families face.
This year, the theme of GSR was education. Constellation organized nine coordinated service projects with local schools and educational programs, including a painting day at Tick Tock Early Learning Center and an outdoor “cleanup” at Avon Grove High School. Church members also completed dozens of service projects on their own as part of the project.
Constellation gathered the names of nearly 3,000 faculty and staff from five local school districts and distributed them among the churches. Church members then wrote a personalized card for each of those faculty and staff thanking them for their service. Those cards will be distributed in early May, during national Teacher Appreciation Week.
This year churches in Southern Chester County raised over $30,000 for Getting Ahead, a 16-week intensive workshop empowering those in poverty to write a better future for themselves and become part of the solution for the community. Getting Ahead is based on the Bridges Out of Poverty model and is part of a local collaboration called the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network.
Over the past four years GSR has coordinated over 75 service projects for many other nonprofits and community organizations, donated in 2016 alone over 6,000 pounds of food and gifted over $120,000 to four local nonprofits: Family Promise, Good Neighbors, Young Moms, and CASA Youth Advocates. Each year the scope and reach of GSR has grown: from three churches in 2015 to over 25 churches in 2018, representing nearly 5,000 community members.
“Each one of these churches is already doing so much to serve and support our community,” said Kate Uhler, Constellation’s Director of Community Engagement. “But many are looking for a way to connect what they’re doing to a larger goal, and to link arms with those who share their vision. That’s why we do GSR.”
The Constellation Network seeks to promote a vision for advancing the common good in Southern Chester County that includes all kinds of organizations and individuals addressing complex issues in the area at a systemic level. Ben Stafford, its Executive Director, said, “This is a unique opportunity for local churches to join together and create new relationships both with each other and with other groups serving the same group of folks they see coming through their doors looking for help.”
Oxford United Methodist is one such church. Their pastor, Mark Terry, was one of the first local pastors to support Family Promise and personally volunteers his time at The Lighthouse Youth Center in Oxford. He serves as co-leader of a group working to increase community collaboration as part of the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network.
“As we strive to push outward in mission and ministry to the world beyond our doors, it’s easier to stay encouraged about what we are doing when we see that we are not alone,” said Terry. “Give-Serve-Restore helps us both see the impact we are having in our community and see the partners we have in strengthening our community. The more relationships we build, the more hope we have to offer to those in need in Southern Chester County.”
For The Constellation Network, GSR is one piece in a larger picture.
“Our vision is to provide a platform that fosters relationships, connections, and ideas that grow and expand well beyond the scope of this project. GSR is a tool in that toolbox,” said Uhler.
The Constellation Network continues to work with churches and other community groups in Southern Chester County, providing administrative support and guidance for tackling some of the complex issues facing the area by facilitating multi-sector conversation and collaboration. At the end of May, they will be coordinating a church-led “end of school year” food drive to support local families struggling with hunger over the summer months. To find out more or to get involved, email Kate Uhler at kuhler@TheConstellationNetwork.com.