Monday, June 28, 2010

Shut-In Project at my church - mission project

Three years ago (almost 4) my mom died of multiple myeloma.  It absolutely devastated me.  I was very lost and looking for some way to help people.  Well, I figured out what I could do, and then I went to my Pastor and told him my idea.  He liked it and gave me the go ahead.  So, after two years, I am hoping I have a better idea of what I'm doing.  All I know is that the shut-ins love it and I feel like God is filling a big hole in my heart.  So, without further ado....

One of the most forgotten group of people in the church are the home bound, or shut-ins.  They dedicated their lives to their church.  They used to attend regularly, be involved in everything and gave freely and lovingly.  Now that they are not able to attend or be involved, people forget that they are still here, just not filling up pew space.  Many of these people are either in a care facility or living alone with minimal contact with people.  They struggle from day to day to make ends meet or just to do something that used to come easily.   The biggest thing to remember in all of this is ---- one day it will be you!

My favorite time of year is Christmas, so what better way and time to remember our shut-ins than at Christmas??!!

This is not a quick project, but rather a long drawn out one.  It takes almost a year to make items and to collect items or purchase them.

Step 1:  Gather names - lots of names.  Your church secretary will probably have a good starting list, but go even further.  Talk to your senior pastor (not your head pastor, but the one who oversee the senior adults in your church).  Ask him for the names of people who no longer are able to attend for whatever reasons: age, physicial disabilities, illness, etc.  Then after you talk to him, talk to the seniors in the church.  They have been there for a long time and they know who is no longer around.  After you have gathered up all the names (and yes, you will miss a few), hit the newspapers and look up the obituaries.  Some of those people on your list will have passed on.  The church will not always be aware of this.  OR, they have moved to another city.  Many times, the church will not be aware of that either. 

Step 2:  Check and verify.  Call the assisted living centers and the care units.  Verify the person you are looking for is at that location, definitely.  Get room numbers, mailing addresses and phone numbers.  Verify, verify, verify.

Step 3:  Make a list.  (Actually, more than one).  First list:  Physical limitations, requirements.  This may not seem important, but if you are collecting items or making items for someone, you need to know if they are wheelchair bound, or diabetic, or have some other physical disability. 

Your first list should include:  Name, address, phone number, b-day (this can be used for birthday cards later in the year), male or female, where they reside (home, assisted living) and any special needs. On our list we also have "bib".  This is so that we know this person needs a special bib to eat.  They have a physical disability that makes it difficult to eat and they spill food a lot while eating.  These bibs are nothing special, other than they are adult size and long.  But, they are only for certain individuals, so we added it to our list.  Also on your list make a note if this is an individual or a couple.  Many times both individuals are homebound for any number of reasons.  Don't overlook the spouse or caregiver!

Step 4:  Make your 2nd list:  Your wish list. 

The past 2 years I made a list up and gave it to my church.  They then printed it up in their weekly and monthly bulletin.  It tells people about our project and what we are aiming to provide.  It also tells people how they can help in this mission project.  We usually put a number needed (ie - 60 people, so we need 60 blankets), along with a contact number and where the items can be dropped off at.

Items:  Small bottles of lotion (try and get unscented, if possible); non-skid slipper socks (make sure they have a lot of stretch in them to prevent swelling of their ankles); weekly pill organizers, wide tooth combs/brushes, work search books, sudoku books, crossword puzzles, 5x7 notepads with pens, decks of cards (new and unopened), chapstick (unflavored), coffee mugs, individual packts of cocoa or tea, blankets, bibs (these you either have to order or make on your own), nail files, fresh fruit, candy (make sure you get some sugar free for the diabetics in the group), knitted shawls for the women (I made a pattern we use that is quick and easy and only takes one skein - it's on this blog under "The Rainy Day Scarf".  Perfect for the ladies and quick for you), packaged crackers, soap on a rope, washcloth to go with the soap, candy tins, homemade cookies, laundry baskets, jar lid grippers (perfect for them trying to open up difficult jars), stationary, stuffed animals (everyone loves these), Christmas cards, and money.

Step 5:  The money does several things.  It helps buy what was not fully donated by the church members and it purchases extras like ribbon (we weave it thru the baskets to make them cheery).  The other thing we do is buy the shut-ins a gift card to Luby's or Furr's.  Many of them cannot afford to go out and eat without relying on someone to take them.  By providing them a gift card, they can buy a senior meal and buy a meal for the person who is taking them.  This has been one of the most loved items.    We also pick up anything else we might have missed that would go well in the baskets. 

Step 6:  Advertise in the church bulletins when you will be filling the baskets - get the youth involved!  Get couples involved. Get everyone involved.  Make sure you include a Christmas card (with the enclosed gift card) with an address on it.  This helps your deliverer know where they are going and it is another bit of cheer for the shut-in.

Step 7:  Set up the deliveries.  Have one person contact everyone on your list that you will be delivering a basket to.  Some shut-ins won't open their doors to just anyone.  So, let them know who you are and that you are with your church and that "so and so" will be delivering a basket to them on "this date".  Make sure someone will be there for delivery.  This is a good project for the youth dept.  I firmly believe our youth should be in contact and get invovled with our shut-ins.  It's a win-win for both of them.

Step 8:  Delivery.  Make sure you have everyone lined up and place the baskets in your fellowship hall or somewhere that is easily accessible. 

Step 9:  Feedback.  You'll get thank you cards, you'll get suggestions on how to improve it, you'll get lots of feedback.  That's a good thing.  You can always improve.

I hope this gives you a few ideas on how to help your church shut-ins.  I really love this mission project.  I hope you do as well.
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