We all sometimes imagine, “What if?” What would happen if we acted on that dream? Over a year ago, a few dedicated people in this diocese had a dream of expanding services offered the homeless people who live in the coastal area. These folks frequent a number of Episcopal churches in our diocese for help with the most basic needs. They often have no permanent address, and most live without a roof or walls. We are feeding and clothing them; we connect them to social service programs; and we offer spiritual encouragement and prayer all the essentials.
Yet surely we can do more. The dream: what more can we do to help people on their journeys? The dreamers realized that clothing the body that needed a bath was only a Band-Aid. Homeless people need a place to bathe. After a great deal of research, the dreamers submitted a United Thank Offering (UTO) grant proposal for a mobile shower unit.
In December 2012 the UTO grant review committee refined all the proposals, which were then submitted to Bishop Mathes. After prayerful consideration, he chose the proposed grant for a mobile, self-contained, portable shower unit which could move to designated areas on a weekly basis to provide showers, thereby helping homeless people gain physical cleanliness and human dignity.
“Our change changes lives,” the moniker for United Thank Offering, has collected Church-wide thank offerings since 1889. Our diocese has received approximately $447,500 from UTO grants, ranging from $5,000 to the most recent grant for the mobile shower unit in the amount of $65,771 (the third-largest domestic grant given in 2013).
The self-contained, two-shower unit is mounted on a 14-foot trailer, which can be moved to approved locations on a rotating, scheduled basis to provide shower facilities for men, women and children who are homeless. This shower trailer increases the level of sanitation for the homeless community while providing an improvement to the water quality of the local streams, lagoons and the ocean in the coastal area of San Diego County. Regulatory documents and watershed plans for beaches and creeks in the region list homelessness as a documented source of bacteria pollution. Having showers available can meet the basic sanitary needs of our homeless brothers and sisters while reducing the bacteria in recreational waterways, thus improving the standard of life for all.
The UTO national committee awarded $1,517,895.81 in 2013. This amount is far less than required to fill the needs of so many, but we can all help accomplish more of God’s work in 2014 by donating to UTO.
This year Bishop Mathes has designated Sunday, October 20 as UTO Ingathering. Whenever you are grateful for God’s blessings, put a coin in a jar or little blue mite box and turn your blessings into a tangible offering. UTO does not fundraise; it relies entirely on thank offerings from grateful hearts. The thank offerings collected from the ingatherings will be sent to the diocesan office, and all of our offerings will be combined and a check sent to the UTO National Committee to be used for the 2014 grants.
UTO’s website, www.utochange.org can enlighten you with the way your blessings are able to bless others. The little blue box, envelopes and other supplies, many of which are free, and grant information are also available. For further information, please contact Jamie Wood. Now is the time to dream! +
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