For the congregation at Heritage Presbyterian Church, it is not just about going to church — it is about being a church. And that is exactly why more than 100 volunteers are planning to come together for Pass It On Day.
“We cut up a lot about this church being in the hole on Bells Ferry Road,” said Pastor Sid Gunter. “We wanted to take the church into the community. The sense was to take the church out and touch lives in the community instead of making them come to the church.”
Gunter said the purpose is not so much to share the church, but to share Heritage Presbyterian’s passion for Christ and His word.
Mandy Collins, who was one of the many minds behind Pass It On Day, said the church has chosen six projects that will be completed Saturday, Aug. 25.
(LEFT: Howard Moore, a member of Heritage Presbyterian Church, restocks the food pantry. Photo by Jessica Wagner | Ledger-News)
Howard Moore said some 20 church members will sing at three assisted living facilities, while another 17 members will visit with senior residents who feel forgotten.
Preparing care packages and notes of appreciation for military recruits, as well as bringing homemade cookies and brownies to the firefighters and police officers on shift, is another project slated for Pass It On Day.
Collins said it would take more than 100 dozen homemade cookies to complete Pass It On Day. Kroger off Ga. 92 is donating some cookies to the church.
“The main thing that we wanted to do was go out and recognize some of our heroes. We thought this was feasible. These were things that we thought could be accomplished on a Saturday,” Collins said.
Many of the volunteers also will stop by the emergency rooms of Northside Hospital-Cherokee and WellStar Kennestone Hospital in order to visit with employees and drop off more treats.
“When we contacted them, they said no one has ever done anything like this before,” Collins said. “They were very touched that we wanted to thank them for all that they do.”
Volunteers also will complete yard work for many Cherokee County seniors.
“Cherokee County Senior Services gives them a wish list of things that they would like done. A lot of the seniors can get their yard mowed, but other things are let go,” Collins said.
Gunter said a senior support group meets at the church, so this seemed to be a natural fit for Pass It On Day. Similarly, Collins said victims of domestic abuse also would receive a helping hand that Saturday.
When the Pass It On Day committee began brainstorming viable projects that could be accomplished, Gunter said the vision started small with 10 volunteers. It has since snowballed to 110 volunteers.
“Of those 110, at least 12 aren’t members of our church,” he said. “I think it says people are looking for an opportunity to care.”
Collins said the idea to get out in the community was relevant.
“It just seemed real to go out into the community. We don’t just want to go to church, we want to be a church,” she said.
(LEFT: Heritage Presbyterian members Sydney Gunter and Zach Collins, both seventh-graders, sort clothes for the clothing closet. Photo special to the Ledger-News)
On the morning of the event, Gunter said all volunteers will be cooked breakfast and provided lunch from Chick-fil-A.
“It will be a bonding time for our church, as well,” he said.
When Heritage Presbyterian is not reaching into the community to provide appreciation, the congregation works tirelessly to clothe, feed and support those who are in need.
“One of the things that I try to tell people is that we have fathers and mothers come in here and apologize for needing to take the food, but they have lost their jobs,” Moore said. “These are honest, hardworking people who are in need.”
What Moore is referring to is the church’s food pantry, which served more than 2,100 residents with 4,700 pounds of food last year.
While the church cannot serve the same citizens week after week, Moore said the food pantry tries to give 20 pounds of food per person; therefore, a family of five would receive 100 pounds of food or at least a week’s worth of groceries.
The church also hands out vegetables that were grown on the property.
“Our youth have created a vegetable garden to honor another youth that died,” Moore said, adding that Kevin’s Garden yields everything from squash to tomatoes to potatoes.
In order to qualify for the food pantry, Moore said individuals must apply through the church.
After a person has qualified for the food pantry, Moore said they are pointed in the direction of the clothing closet, headed by Jeanna Weot.
“To date, we have clothed 200 families and 600 people,” she said, adding that most of those who come into the church are unemployed or struggling to make ends meet.
Converted from an old daycare room, the clothing closet was painted and designed by Weot in order to give people a feeling that they are in a boutique, rather than a church closet.
“We don’t turn anyone away, and we don’t charge,” she said, adding that the clothing closet does take cash donations to purchase new undergarments for children and adults.
The clothing closet is open four times a week and is by appointment only.
The church also strives to help families provide a Christmas for their children through Santa’s Caravan.
Committee member Terri Simmons said Santa’s Caravan started in 1988 as a youth project; in fact, Collins remembers being a part of the first caravan.
“It’s amazing for to me to see what we put together,” she said. “It was impactful to see it as a teenager, because I think as a teen you don’t realize that poverty is in our back yard.”
Since its inception, Santa’s Caravan has grown from providing presents for 10 children to more than 150 children last year.
Simmons said the church gets a list of students through the schools’ counselors.
“We go a week or two before Christmas and give the children stockings,” she said, adding that the volunteers also provide food baskets. “The food is not Christmas dinner. We provide breakfast and lunch so the children have meals that would normally be at school during the week.”
There are many fundraising events held throughout the year to support Santa’s Caravan, including a benefit concert, Easter brunch and a barbecue/silent auction, which was held this past weekend.
For more information, visit www.santascaravan.com.
To learn more about Heritage Presbyterian Church, visit www.heritagepres.com.