Emmanuel Church made Impact Week an annual tradition, giving impact team members an opportunity to complete projects to make a difference in their community.
The church’s four campuses — Greenwood, Banta, Franklin and Garfield Park — had participated in recent years.
Within the past year, a fifth campus opened in Seymour, so members of that congregation recently were able to get involved in what’s now known as Serve Week.
Among the five locations, more than 1,000 impact team members served more than 50 organizations and put in 130 service hours. That included 135 people from the Seymour campus, which was the most from one location, Campus Pastor Andy Schroeder said.
“First and foremost, we want to establish our congregation locally as a presence in our community, that we love and we care for our community and we want to support and help any way we can, and that’s just a big part of our DNA of who we want to be as a church,” he said.
The church’s service began Sept. 9 by joining a group from Seymour High School for a Tents and Tailgates event with booths, bounce houses, food, giveaways and other activities in front of the school’s gymnasium before a varsity football game.
Emmanuel’s student ministries director, Keia Blair, oversaw the project with the school committee.
“We were able to love on the kids at the high school. There were a lot of kids,” said Jess Ritz, the church’s ministry and host director.
Then Sept. 10, Emmanuel had 35 members divided onto three teams to participate in The Alley’s annual Thousand Ten Project. The idea is to have teams of 10 people with each individual putting in $10 and going out in the community and using the money to make a difference.
One of the teams helped a family in Seymour.
“They had just had a fire at their home in Columbus and moved here,” said Lea Ann Schroeder, kids director at the church.
“They moved here, didn’t have anything, they were behind on some bills and we were able to take care of some of those,” Andy said. “We got groceries for them, we bought a grill for them and a whole bunch of other things.”
Another team bought groceries for senior citizens at a local apartment complex. Kelsie Rieker, Emmanuel’s worship and groups pastor, was part of that team and said the goal for Serve Week was to be the hands and feet of Jesus and follow the church’s motto, “Come to Christ and grow in Christ.”
“We are growing as a church. We want to be able to invite people to come to church,” she said. “It just came to mind it’s hard to invite people to church, to come to Christ, to grow in Christ if their basic needs aren’t met, and so it’s important for us to be caring for them just as humans before we can share the gospel with them or invite them to come to Christ. We just wanted to love on people while in our community.”
For other projects to close out Serve Week from Sept. 12 to 14, Emmanuel hosted a breakfast with local leaders to see what their needs were. Funding from Serve Week T-shirt sales helped them carry out those projects.
One was assembling 686 hygiene bags for Blessings in a Backpack of Jackson County to distribute to kids at local schools. Rieker raised $1,600 and Emmanuel put in $200 to cover the cost of the items needed.
“They had a request for about 700 hygiene kits this year from the school systems, which is just a really high number,” Rieker said. “Pam (Kindel) was a little worried that they weren’t going to meet it, so we said, ‘We’re going to do our best to help you come up with this.’ I reached out to several business owners, organizations from the community and got lots of financial donations but got a lot item donations. A major blessing.”
Church members also volunteered at the Jackson County Clothing Center in Seymour, helping organize clothing donations and cleaning inside and also washing windows, pulling and spraying weeds and doing other tasks outside.
Partnering with the city, Emmanuel members painted two dugouts at Kasting Park, took out old playground equipment and mulched at Shields Park and cleaned the running trail and disc golf course at the Freeman Field Recreational Complex.
“They are adding nine more of those (disc golf baskets), so literally all day, we cleared brush, tore down trees, so that’s going to be a huge addition to Freeman Field,” Ritz said. “It was super cool because that will be something that our youth will get to use because they are doing the Frisbee golf, and they have all of that set up super close to right here.”
By searching on the Seymour Shares TimeBank, a group from the church also partnered with the city to tear down a shed at a resident’s home.
The other projects were helping move a single mother and her kids out of an apartment and into a rental property and the 1824 young adult group volunteering at the Seymour Museum Center.
“Our goal was 100, and then when the Lord gave us 135, we were like, ‘OK,’” Ritz said of the congregation’s response to Serve Week. “People in this community want to serve, they want to make a difference, and here at Emmanuel, I think that’s really what we’re striving to do is make a difference in the community. We want them to know they are loved.”
Pastor Schroeder looks for the Seymour campus to continue to be involved in Serve Week each year.
“We really feel like next year, we can get better and develop more relationships with organizations in our community,” he said, noting groups also will be doing community projects and filling needs year-round outside of Serve Week.
Rieker said the goal is to let the community know Emmanuel as a church that doesn’t just love its members well but loves the community well.
“It is really easy for our churches in town to love on their congregation well, but we hope that our churches will see this and realize we need to be doing more outside of our walls, regardless of whether or not these people are going to come to church here,” she said. “We just need to be loving our Jackson County well.”