The Social Ministry Planning Group is charged with facilitating and encouraging our congregations interaction with the world outside of the walls of this building.  We are called to be a publicly engaged church and as such, we are called to be God’s hands in our local and global communities.  These interactions include several facets:  Awareness, Action, and Advocacy.  There are also many members of the congregation who discover a passion for one cause or another, and who act on that calling either through the congregation or with other organizations.  We celebrate all of the ways that individuals or groups have served as God’s hands working to live out our baptismal promise to “care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace.”

This year our ministry to homeless men through the GIFTS Men’s Shelter expanded to serve the men year round.  St. John hosted the shelter a total of four weeks, providing food, shelter, and comfort to an average of 25 homeless men each time.  Many thanks to Duane A. for coordinating this ministry and to the many folks who give food and their time and energy to meet the needs of our guests.  GIFTS was also one of the organizations on our Giving Tree for Christmas 2015 and the recipient of a $1,000 grant from the Foundation.

Members of our congregation delivered Meals on Wheels during 4 weeks of this year.  Many thanks to Pat M. for her work in organizing volunteers.

In March, our Foundation paid for, and members of the congregation signed up to package meals for the “Kids Against Hunger” project which provides nutritional meal mixes to both local and global organizations dealing with hunger issues.

We offer Easter chicks as alternative gifts purchased through the ELCA Great Gifts Program.  The chicks help families all over the world become self-sufficient.  The Foundation matched the monies collected from the congregation, therefore doubling our impact.

Members of our church participated as walkers and donors for the Janesville CROP walk to benefit Church World Service and ECHO. Again the pledges received were matched for both organizations from the Foundation.

Members of our church participated as walkers and donors for the Janesville CROP walk to benefit Church World Service and ECHO. Again the pledges received were matched for both organizations from the Foundation.

On Mother’s Day we celebrated the 28 children sponsored through Compassion International by members of our congregation and we were able to find sponsors for the 3 children formerly sponsored by the Sunday School.

We celebrated World Malaria Day in April and donated funds to be matched by our Foundation. This year marked the end of the ELCA Malaria Campaign. The ELCA Malaria Campaign reached its financial goal of raising $15 million. For the past 3 years the generosity of our congregation has helped to meet this goal and bring about lasting change throughout 13 countries in Africa. Many thanks to Judi M. for her diligent work on this project including serving on the synod task force.

Our involvement with ECHO (Everyone Cooperating to Help Others—our local food pantry) has continued.

This year we donated food and money to Echo Christmas in July campaign. Thank you to Paulette M. for her work on this project.

The second Sunday of each month is dedicated as ECHO Sunday—a time when members of the Congregation are reminded to bring non-perishable food items for ECHO and place them in our shopping basket. Many thanks to Diane U. who continues to serve as our representative on the ECHO Board and makes sure we are made aware of current ECHO needs and that our donations get to ECHO.

We collected School Supplies for the annual ECHO school supply distribution.

The ECHO community meal is served each month in our Friendship hall. In October, members of our congregation made and served the monthly meal. Many thanks to Mary L. for organizing and to all those who helped cook, serve, and clean up.

A new project this year involved providing Shoe Boxes for the Homeless. Empty shoeboxes with suggested lists for men, women, and children were made available to members of the congregation. All 24 of the boxes were taken and filled and have been delivered to ECHO for distribution.

As winter drew near we collected enough money from the Congregation and Foundation to purchase boots and snow pants for 25 children at Jackson Elementary School. This effort was helped with a donation from the Foundation. Because of this purchase, 25 children will be able to play with their peers outside at recess this winter. Thank you to Tim B. for heading this up.

Lorrie C. promoted the collection of hats, mittens, and scarves to be distributed from our church office if people come in off the street looking for warm clothing.

During the Christmas season, the annual giving tree offered opportunities for alternative gift giving including the Lutheran World Relief gifts program in conjunction with the Education Planning Group. The Sunday School students colored ornaments and cards to encourage Christmas Gift Giving in the form of animals, school supplies, clean water, and other things needed by people in impoverished places in the world.

In response to the tragic refugee crisis in Syria, members of the congregation also were giving the opportunity to donate to World Vision. These gifts will be used to help refugees and internally displaced people with life-saving essentials like food, clean water, emergency supplies, and healthcare. They will also help them get access to education and child-friendly spaces for traumatized kids.

Local organizations included on the Giving Tree for 2015 included Gifts, the 16:49 Project, and ECHO. The Foundation challenged the Congregation with grants of $1,000 for each of these organizations.

Finally, with respect to Advocacy, we once again held Bread for the World’s annual Offering of Letters during a worship service in May. This year’s offering involved asking legislators to continue funding Child Nutrition Programs and resulted in 62 Letters being sent. We also began submitting an advocacy issue promoted by the ELCA each month for publication in our Messenger.

Respectfully submitted,
Social Ministry Planning Team
Kathy H., Mary L., Jan S., Lorrie C., Tim B., and Pastor Bond

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