Imagine your church applies for a modest loan to repair some equipment that you use to distribute food in your community. Instead of a loan, you get a check in the mail, with no strings attached.
That’s what happened to Riverton Park UMC in Tukwila, WA. This small congregation is in a poor neighborhood near the SEA-TAC airport. In 2001, it was a founding partner of the Tukwila Pantry. In 2017, they distributed more than 1 million pounds of food to over 10,000 local families! A lot of this food is unsold produce, meat, and dairy from nearby grocery stores that the pantry picks up with a “grocery rescue” truck six days a week. This truck needed major repairs on its engine. So the leadership team wrote to the Northwest United Methodist Foundation to ask for a loan.
Now, if you don’t know the Foundation very well, don’t worry-- I didn’t either. Two weeks ago, I joined their staff as one of two new Associate Directors, and here’s what I’ve learned since then: the Foundation wants our faith and our ministry to outlast all of us. It helps congregations set money aside for the future by creating endowments, cultivating generosity, and receiving major gifts. It also manages investments, makes loans, and teaches about money. So if your church has a complicated money question, call us! We’re expanding our staff so that we can provide personal care to every United Methodist Church in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. Whether it’s how to establish and administer an endowment program, afford a new roof, or accept a gift of stock, we’ve got your back.
Anyway, at my very first meeting with the Foundation, we discussed Riverton Park’s loan application. The board of directors voted unanimously to provide a grant instead of a loan.
In his letter to the congregation, our Executive Director (and my new boss) Tom Wilson explained: “This grant, which carries absolutely no expectations or commitment to repay, is made possible due to the generosity of George and Jean Reis. George was a professor at the University of Washington and Jean was, for decades, the Assistant to the Bishop of the PNW Annual Conference. Although George had passed before I had a chance to meet him, I worked with and knew Jean well. Her dedication to the United Methodist Church and to the Office of the Bishop was remarkable. Upon Jean’s death a gift was left to the Foundation. The earnings on the gift provide us the opportunity to make grants like this one.”
I love this story, which connects the saints who have gone before us with the work we're doing now-- and with the future of families and children in our own neighborhoods. This is the kind of work that I want to be a part of. Don’t you?