Giving of oneself is really the best way to celebrate the Lenten season and members of the congregation of St. Luke's Lutheran Church did just that through the church's Be Rich campaign.
The campaign, now in its third year, partners with non-profit organizations to help others through donations and service.
"The program is inspired from 1 Timothy 6:18 which says, 'command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds and to be generous and willing to share.,'" said Aaron McCullough, the church's Be Rich campaign coordinator.
"A church in Atlanta first came up with the idea and made resources available to other churches. This happened around the same time as our church leadership was looking for some sort of outreach program to bring us all together (all ages) in serving outside our walls," he added.
St. Luke's partnered with Military Veterans Resource Center (MVRC), The Ohio State University Star House, Central Ohio Rescue and Restore Coalition (CORRC), Faith Mission, Lutheran Social Services Champion Food Pantry and My Very Own Blanket for the 2017 campaign.
"Helping veterans has been near the top of our list for some time, so we decided to take it on this year," McCullough said.
The campaign revolved around three themes: "Give, Serve, Love."
Members of the congregation donated a previously identified item of the week for the campaign which lasted from March 1 through April 4.
"Our team looked for items we thought we could really stock up on. We've found we make a greater impact if we focus on collecting one item at a time so the items chosen for this year's campaign were cereal, peanut butter, mac & cheese and toothpaste," McCullough said.
"We were able to donate a total of 1,466 items to the Military Veterans Resource Center and received enough donations to purchase 1,165 COTA bus passes for the OSU Star House," he added.
Church members also contributed their time and talent in various community service capacities for the 'Serve' portion of the campaign. Throughout the five weeks, volunteers from St. Luke's paid it forward at all the partner organizations.
McCullough said that the goal wasn't to reinvent the wheel, but to plug in with non-profit organizations that are already serving those in need and help them go further faster.
About a dozen members of all ages took some time out on a busy Saturday in late March to help the staff at MVRC sort through and inventory a large donation of household items and toiletries from AEP Ohio. The job, which probably would have taken the MVRC staff weeks to complete, was finished in less than four hours.
McCullough, who normally helps run worship services and adult ministries, said that this is one of his favorite projects every year.
"Our overall service goal was to serve at least 400 hours and involve at least 200 different people," McCullough said. "We were blown away by the response...we ended up having 353 different volunteers who served 549 hours during the campaign, " he added.