In January, when people struggled to find COVID rapid self-test kits in pharmacies or endured long lines at testing sites, Spanish-American church received 1,000 self-test kits from the Los Angeles Food Bank to distribute to its community and members.
In the week leading up to the distribution day, the community services team knocked on doors to invite their neighbors to come to the church on Sabbath, where the parking lot was marked off for people to easily walk up and pick up the free rapid tests and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Four hundred rapid test kits were distributed that day, and the remaining tests have been given out as the need arises.
“It was an opportunity for us to reach people in a different way than ever before,” said Mario Melendez, Spanish-American church community service director. “When you think about church community services, you usually only think about a food bank.” Spanish- American church recognizes that community services can encompass so much more.
In addition to its food bank, which has been serving its community for more than 20 years, Spanish- American church offers a multitude of services aimed to let their community know that the church wants to be a good neighbor.
“The way I describe community services is a rainbow of services where you can do anything under the sun,” Melendez said, “and you’re not limited to just one thing.”
Some of these programs include Spanish-American church’s fourth annual Career Day last November, which welcomed 100 people. Professionals and students in nursing, social work, public health administration, teaching, and engineering were in attendance.
“It was a great turnout; kids from our church, community, and their parents asked questions,” said Melendez, who specifically invited Christian professionals to share. “It’s been a way to bring back young adult members to the church and reconnect them with the current youth at their church—and the community.”
During the Christmas holiday, community services gave out 150 food bags to families in need, invited members of the community attending weekly Bible classes to a Christmas dinner on campus, and hosted a toy giveaway.
Because the ongoing pandemic has brought about a rise in mental health issues, the church has held twice- monthly classes since last August as a support group for members and community participants. A graduation for the course is set for June.
These are just a few of the ways that Spanish- American church has poured into its community. Passionate about this work, Melendez has visited a number of churches to help members discover their gifts that can be used for service in their communities.
“It just depends on the talents for each church,” Melendez said. “What are the strengths and talents that your church members have?”
By Araya Moss