For more than a decade the youth of First Congregational Church UCC in Charlotte have provided Housing Services Mid Michigan (HSMM) with cleaning supplies for those making their way out of homelessness. It’s a tradition that started with former Pastor Tom Jones, and one that has continued in his absence.

This year, however, the First Congregational Youth Group, in conjunction with its Christian Education Board, decided to make a slight change, opting to donate the total dollar amount raised during two community dinner events rather than purchasing supplies.

The change was graciously welcomed by HSMM Director Denise Dunn.

“We can really use that money for a variety of things,” said Dunn, who was pleasantly surprised when she learned the church youth raised $1,171.37 to donate to HSMM. “This will help the homeless in our area in some capacity by helping to bridge a gap.”

Dunn said the homeless programs HSMM offers are heavily grant-funded, and those grants come with a lot of strings that restrict how the many can be spent. She said First Congregational Donation may be used to purchase State Identification cards, or cover housing applications for the homeless. A portion may still go toward the purchase of cleaning supplies that are given to those that find housing.

“We are always searching for dollars to help augment those federal grants,” Dunn said. “We have to cash match those federal grants at 25 percent. For our homeless program alone that equals $45,000 that we have raise to match the grant.”

Judi Cates, youth co-leader, said this year’s Youth Group is, “Tiny but Bold.”

“Our youths eyes have really been opened to homelessness in the county through our discussions,” Cates said. “We believe we need to be the church and fight for the powerless.”

Todd Rockhill, a member of First Congregational Church and employee with HSMM said part of what drew him to First Congregational Church was its willingness to take action in the community.

“They look to where there is a need and act on it,” Rockhill said. “They figure out the best way that they can help.”

Dunn said the donation will go a long way to fulfilling the needs of homeless individuals in Eaton County.

First Congregational Church Pastor Phil Hobson said the partnership with HSMM helps the church identify needs in the community they may not otherwise see.

“We don’t always know what the needs are in our community,” he said to Dunn. “We don’t have the ability to help the folks that you do. But we can help you help them.”

The First Congregational Church Youth Group raised $518 at its 2017 Spaghetti Supper fundraiser, $443.85 at its 2018 Pancake Supper and donated a $209.52 Meijer gift card, which was originally used to purchase food for the fundraisers.