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15 December, 2021

Charity of the Year

Charity of the Year

Is your church wondering how to be more involved in the community but concerned that your time and finances are limited? Is there a way that you might be able to better steward the specific resources God has given you to connect with others and be a blessing?

By choosing a 'Charity for the Year' King’s Church 1066 (Hastings and Bexhill) has been able to provide focussed support to local groups, while also establishing new partnerships in the community. While support has been primarily financial, there are other creative ways they helped and blessed local charities, and the connections made each year also open up longer-term opportunities.

Over the years King’s has supported a variety of charities. Sometimes these are local Christian projects: the Snowflake Winter Night Shelter, or the Hope Kitchen, a soup kitchen feeding those in need. More often, though, support is given beyond the Christian community.

The initial criterion is that the chosen charity is meeting needs in Hastings and the surrounding area, and there is a particular emphasis on supporting charities that help the vulnerable, the marginalised or those in poverty.

Charities supported have included those for young and old. Last year, the Dragonflies Bereavement Project, which helps young people pre- or post-bereavement, was chosen. This year the church is supporting the Association of Carers, a volunteer-led service supporting unpaid carers.

Financial help is the initial focus, and the church believes this is best directed where the support can make a tangible difference (often through a specific initiative that is current that year). The Xtrax Young People’s Centre is one example. The project helps young people aged 16-24, and in the year that church support was given, one of Xtrax’s specific projects was providing a ‘starter pack’ for newly housed young people moving in their first home or supported accommodation.

As well as providing the means for church members to donate through the year, the church’s Christmas and Easter offerings are given directly to the charity. In addition, every year, the money raised from the church’s public car park over the Christmas and New Year period are donated as well.

Beyond financial gifts, rooms in the church building are offered for use by the charity of the year. In 2018, Hastings Furniture Services, which provides good quality reusable furniture and appliances, held their ‘Thrift Fest’. This event gathered local groups, clubs and organisations, aimed at helping people ‘live active, rich, creative, fulfilled lives without it costing the earth’. A day of activities for local families took place in the church building.

In 2013, the supported local charity was the Seaview Project. The money raised went towards their Crisis Accommodation Project, providing temporary accommodation for people sleeping rough on the streets, as well as offering personal support and help to find secure, affordable and stable accommodation.

The church building also hosted the charity’s ‘No Labels’ photographic exhibition. The aim of the exhibition was to raise awareness of the issues faced by vulnerable adults in the community and those visiting were touched by the poignant black and white photos of some of the people helped by this longstanding project.

Besides raising money and opening the church building, other ‘hands-on’ opportunities may arise. Each year Surviving Christmas hosts a two-day ‘open Christmas’ for approximately 150 people per day, providing a warm meal, tea and snacks, showers, hairdressing, medical services, clothing, entertainment and friendship. One year, some of the church’s gap-year students, along with others, volunteered to help with the piles of washing-up, so that it could be packed ready for the next year!

Involvement with the community can build positive relationships with each charity lasting beyond the year when financial support is focussed on them. One example has been church members getting involved over several years with the Seaview Project’s Big Sleep, a sponsored overnight sleep-out in cardboard boxes on the seafront.

Perhaps this overview of one church’s experience can give your own church ideas for increasing involvement with others working in your area serving the vulnerable, the marginalised or those in poverty.

Where might similar opportunities to build partnerships exist in your community, whether assisting local charities with finances, space or awareness-raising?

15 December, 2021

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