*** Below is a letter that Outreach has sent to all of Old First’s friends who support the Outreach Programs and the Homeless Shelter ***
Dear Friends of Old First,
I think you all already know, but Old First Reformed United Church of Christ and Bethesda Project jointly host on the church’s premises, a shelter for 30 homeless men and have done so for 30+ years.
As Governor Wolf declared the shelter-in-place order to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus in March, church leadership and Bethesda management went into overdrive to figure out how to best protect this particularly vulnerable population. What could we do to lessen the risk of infection in communal living? We realized the best we can manage is “risk reduction” by making Old First the site where all our residents get all their services, thus limiting their exposure to large numbers of other people. In doing so, we also reduce the risk to the general population. As a church, we are called to work for the common good.
The result is our shelter is now open 24/7, with an expanded population of 35, including 5 women, and full services on-site — including showers, laundry and three meals a day. This effort costs money and our budget is always “church-mouse” thin.
Normally the shelter season ends on April 30. But this year, we don’t know how long we will continue offering shelter — it largely depends on how long the shelter-in-place orders lasts for Philadelphia.
Expanded full-time services for a longer time means increased costs. Exactly how much we don’t know as yet, but at best it is in the thousands of dollars.
The good news is that thus far there have been no identified infections in our shelter! It almost feels like a miracle. Social distancing, decreased contact with people in larger settings, and proper cleaning are helping to flatten the spread—it works.
We have a unique opportunity to maximize shelter donations for Giving Tuesday Now (May 5). An anonymous donor has pledged $1K in matching funds, offering to match the first $1K donated by others.
We are seeking at least — 10 $100 donations so we can maximize the use of the $1K matching grant.
Please, if you are able to help and feel moved to do so, click on the link below to make your donation. You will immediately receive a receipt for tax purposes. You can also send a check payable to Old First Reformed UCC with a notation for COVID-19 Shelter. (Should donations exceed the amount needed to keep the shelter open this year, funds will be applied for sheltering in the next season.
Thank you for your support and help as we serve this vulnerable population; it’s times like these that help us understand our call to serve.
As always, thanks for your help and support; we couldn’t do all we believe God wants of us without you,
Rev. Michael Caine