Community Church leaves pews empty for new Sunday service
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News June 6, 2012 2:18PM
Scott Nelson, Eric Osborne, Julia Goggins and Emily Goggins spreading new mulch on the playground at Jones Elementary School. | submitted photo
Updated: July 8, 2012 8:04AM
The campuses of Community Christian Church presented this challenge: Let’s cancel regular worship service for one Sunday to perform community service.
Members would select the project dearest to their hearts, devise a supply budget, submit it to the church for funding (requests went as large as $1,000) and assemble a volunteer team to complete a three-hour job from 9 a.m. to noon May 6.
“It was kind of risky,” said John Ciesniewski, pastor of the Shorewood campus. “We had never done anything like this. But we talk about service every week and we thought it would be fun to line up some projects. Our people were excited to do it and the people we served were truly blessed by it. They couldn’t believe we were doing it.”
Eric Osborne of Joliet wanted to bless Jones Elementary School in Joliet, where his daughter attends and where his son once attended. So Osborne approached the principal, inquired into the school’s needs. He learned that, although the school had bought mulch for the grounds, it had no one to spread it.
However, after Osborne and his family, along with another family with five small children, were 90 minutes into the work, a strong thunderstorm broke out and forced them to seek shelter.
When the torrents slowed to a drizzle, Osborne texted Ciesniewski and confessed the job was only 25 percent completed. Ciesniewski began texting his contacts and soon 20 people arrived to help.
“People with no connection to the school came out and they brought wheelbarrows and rakes,” Osborne said. “We got through two large piles of mulch before the next round of thunderstorms hit. The principal had fully expected to hear us apologize for not finishing, but my wife was able to tell him, ‘We got it all done.’”
Two months before “service day,” Community Christian Church took up an additional collection, which it customarily does each year. That money is then generally donated to local and/or overseas service or missionary organizations.
An average Sunday collection among the 12 campuses is $120,000, which can be doubled or tripled for the special collection. After “service day” was announced, that collection netted nearly $600,000.
“It blew us away,” Ciesniewski said. “The next day week we were cutting checks.”
He and his family worked with a team that beautified and collected refuse at Mather Woods Forest Preserve in Plainfield.
Kelly Johnson of Shorewood frequently cooks breakfast at Daybreak Center in Joliet and babysits for shelter residents when they attend classes. Johnson noticed the challenges of setting up housekeeping when residents moved out of the facility and into permanent housing.
So Johnson and her 15-person team created 30 housewarming baskets and filled them with the necessary household and personal care items that quickly eat up precious funds: cleaning supplies, laundry and dish detergent, soap, shampoo, hangers, toothpaste and toothbrushes, garbage bags, shower curtains and shower rings, air fresheners and kitchen sponges.
“We even included spaghetti and spaghetti sauce for their first ‘welcome home,’ meal,” Johnson said.
She kept costs low by purchasing most items at a dollar store.
“We heard someone has already received one of the baskets and was really excited about it.”