Service to the Community
St. Paul's is a very active church, especially considering its size and location in a rural area of Texas. We have a number of ways in which we reach out to the community to serve the needs of those around us. We are proud of this tradition and hope to continue and enlarge it in the future. Helping Hands, an independent organization with a building located in a poor, mostly minority area of town, serves the community in many ways. This organization is an important part of St. Paul's ministry. It was started by St. Paul's in the mid-1980s, originally run by the church as a food pantry. Later it moved to the present building, which is the former segregated school for African American children before the mid-1950s. Helping Hands provides literacy classes, inexpensive meals to low-income families, operates a very inexpensive thrift store, and has other services as well. Many of the board members are St. Paul's parishioners, including the main officers. Our women's organization provides meat for meals, except during the deer season, when venison is donated by hunters for this purpose. Over time, many other local organizations have become involved in support of this work, including the county government, other churches, and businesses, but St. Paul's is still the main church involved in this important assistance to our low-income residents. Members of our parish are involved as volunteers in the food program, in fundraisers, as board members, and in other ways.
School Supply Drive: In the summer, we write letters to around 100 area businesses soliciting donations for the purpose of purchasing school supplies for needy children. Once the funding is in, St. Paul's volunteers purchase teacher-designated school supplies for families whose need has been documented by the Helping Hands staff. In the past year, we provided 270 children with school supplies.
The Christmas Basket Program: Once a year, people from St. Paul's gather and go shopping for Christmas foods at a local grocery store. They fill shopping baskets with staples and nutritious foods, after which they bring it back to the church to fill laundry baskets with the items. Each family on the list (selected by application to Helping Hands) receives a hand-delivered basket as a Christmas present. This has been a very popular program.
Parishioners from St. Paul's shop for groceries and deliver Christmas Baskets families in need.
St. Paul's Community Center: Jubilee centers are a national network of centers associated with Episcopal Churches whose purpose is to empower the poor and oppressed in their communities by providing direct services, such as food, shelter, and healthcare, and also by advocating for human rights. We received this designation in February of 2014, which means that we are part of this network of programs across the nation, and one of the few in our diocese.
This initiative grew out of a study group that met under the direction of our Interim Rector, Fr. Phil Mason. Our current outreach programs, described above, fit into the mission of Jubilee Centers, but we have expanded our work into other areas of social service/social justice work. Our main new program is a series of community suppers, called Loaves & Fishes Dinners, which provide free evening meals to families and individuals who might otherwise have insufficient food. Brady has a high rate of poverty, especially among children, and we developed this program to help address this issue. Food insecurity is one of the most serious problems of poverty for growing children, and we at St. Paul's hope to work toward not only providing direct assistance, but also to serve as advocates for those in need. We have started slowly, with a once-a-month meal, but the response has been gratifying. Our church is ideally located for this ministry, since it is situated on the edge of one of the lowest-income areas in town. In addition to hosting a series of free meals, we hope to develop more programs that help to empower and assist those with various needs due to poverty or disability. We have a large group of volunteers who are willing to help, including several of our youth members. All of these programs in support of the poorer members of our town are integral to our St. Paul's mission and ministry.
Brady Clergy Association. The Ecumenical group of Brady Clergy works together in the community for the spiritual and physical health of the entire community. We often provide emergency financial assistance to those in need through this and our own ministries.
Organ Donation Registration. Recently we held a registration drive for Donate Life Texas, an organ donation organization.
Mardi Gras. Once a year, in late January or early February, we hold a large fundraiser with a Mardi Gras theme. This is an after-church celebration on a Sunday, with a meal of Gumbo, rice, and salad, or hot dogs and hamburgers for those who prefer them. Tickets for the meal are sold by members of the Women of the Church, which organizes the entire event. There is music provided by a local band, a silent auction, a regular auction, activities for children, and a great feeling of celebration. We usually have many people from the town in attendance. Proceeds from this activity are used by the Women's organization for their charitable efforts. This event not only raises money, but provides a way for St. Paul's to reach out to the community with an opportunity for fellowship across the diverse range of residents. St Paul's also assists in fundraising and other ways to support a number of other local outreach efforts, including The Haven, a shelter for families in crisis, where we have helped with fund raising and annual Christmas decorations; and Hope from the Heart, a community-wide program that raises funds to help cancer patients with financial support.
World Mission St. Paul's supports the Diocesan World Mission. In 2010, St. Paul's sent two missionaries to Honduras for a water well ministry, and another member went in 2012. The Women of the Church donated a gift recently to Church World Service to pay for literacy lessons for four women in Afghanistan or a similar place. We are always looking for other opportunities for supporting global outreach.
Literacy Class Honduras Mission Trip