St. James delivers rest and renewal to Harry Street
January 2023 · Forward in Hope
“We belong to each other” is a phrase we say a lot around Saint Francis Ministries. We know that no single organization can support vulnerable and at-risk children in the community by itself. That’s why our community partners are so essential to the work we do. St. James Episcopal is just one of those partners. To learn about others, visit our Strength Through Partnership page.
The Outreach Committee of St. James Episcopal Church takes its work seriously. Rather than simply writing a check to an organization, the 16 members choose to go all in, first by educating themselves about real needs within their Wichita community and then drafting a plan of action that will produce the most benefit.
“When you learn about an agency and what they’re doing, it’s a natural instinct to want to get involved and help,” says Outreach leader Judy Goodpasture.
That process has resulted in St. James becoming one of Saint Francis Ministries’ most vital community partners, and it started with the church’s Pocket Change Ministry, through which parishioners regularly contribute their pocket change to support four charities, including Saint Francis Ministries. Since its institution in 2015, the Pocket Change Ministry has given a total of $19,300 to the four nonprofit organizations.
Then, during the COVID outbreak, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary.
“We had a fund drive to celebrate the centennial,” says Judy. “The drive was used to make repairs to the building and to fund a charitable project. I was asked to head the project, and we selected Saint Francis Ministries. We looked at several opportunities, but finally settled on refurbishing the five family visitation rooms (at the East Harry offices in Wichita).”
The visitation rooms provide space where children in foster care can spend time with their birth parents during supervised visits. The rooms serve an essential purpose in Saint Francis’ ministry of healing by enabling families to spend quality time together and remain connected during a difficult period.
After planning the project for a few months, they’ve actively worked in the rooms for the last six. So far, they’ve completed four of the five, all accomplished during the weekends to protect the privacy of clients. They began by painting the rooms. Then they filled them.
“We wanted books for all ages, with wholesome, educational themes and that featured children of different races and creeds,” says Judy. “We also added puzzles, construction toys, like Legos, Lincoln Logs, and blocks, as well as games and educational card sets with the alphabet and multiplication tables. We decided against computer toys, anything with a battery, or toys suggesting violence.”
The committee thought it important that every activity support positive interaction between parent and child. Likewise, they wanted children to feel free to take anything they might need.
After a year, one can sense that Judy and her fellow Outreach Committee members have received as much as they have given to the project.
“There are other agencies doing foster care in our state, but Saint Francis is the most significant,” says Judy. “The people we have met from Saint Francis are just so down-to-earth, people who care about what they’re doing, and that’s impressive. Yes, we were drawn to them because it’s an Episcopal organization, but also because they have a real mission, and the people seem so genuine.”
The biggest beneficiaries, though, are the children and families who get to use the visitation rooms, thanks to the compassion, contributions, and energy of St. James and its people. Because of their concern, families are strengthened, and children are comforted.
“We recently put plaques up outside each room,” says Judy. “They’re small, but nice, and each says, ‘This room was furnished by St. James Episcopal Church. May God’s love bring you peace and renewal,’ so that as they enter the room, they have a sense that someone is caring for them in some way.”