The Church in Aurora asks, 'How can we help?'

Jodie Fritinger
The Church in Aurora
The Church in Aurora receives a $25,000 grant from the Portage Foundation and Moore Trust.  From left, the Rev. Derek Hickman of The Church in Aurora; Marjorie Conner, Portage Foundation Board of Trustees President; Lindsey Loftus, Portage Foundation Executive Director; Liz Sutter, The Church in Aurora Christian Education Director, and Amy Papesh, Moore Trust Advisory Committee member.

Over the last 25 weeks of the pandemic, The Church in Aurora, with help from multiple community groups, has provided food for 3,400 persons, collected and distributed school supplies to nearly 100 children, provided assistance with utility bills, rides to work and more.

The church’s food ministry, which has evolved into a total-care ministry, began with a phone call.

At the beginning of the pandemic, when schools closed, an Aurora City School counselor contacted the church concerned about how students on free and reduced lunch plans would receive adequate nutrition.

The church’s response was immediate. “How can we help?” The church contacted other local churches and together began providing meats, fruits and vegetables to 24 people in seven households — later to more than 50 households.

“This is a living list that changes by the week,” said Liz Sutter, director of Christian education for The Church in Aurora. “Some folks have come off the list as they begin employment, while others are added depending on circumstance.”

Currently, the church is serving an average of 150 persons in 45 households on a weekly basis.

While providing neighborhood families with food, the church realized families had more needs. Family circumstances were shared and often overwhelming.

“We saw a tremendous need and wanted to offer as much hope as possible,” said Sutter. The church decided to pose the same question more widely.

“How Can We Help?” yard signs with the church’s phone number were placed around the community and the calls came.

People requested rides to work, help with electric and water bills, diapers for their children, among other things.

People have responded to these signs by not only asking for assistance, but by calling to volunteer to help.

These calls were followed by calls of a different nature – “How can I help?”

“Callers asked about the signs and what we were doing,” said Sutter. “When they heard we were trying to help those struggling during the pandemic they responded with donations and their time. The giving nature of our community is beautiful to witness.”

That nature has been displayed in full as Aurora Police Officer Vickie Yendriga worked with the church to assist senior citizens with food, yard work, dish washing and human interaction.

School supplies were collected and distributed to nearly 100 students through a collaborative effort by the church, school district, and Howard Hanna Realty. The food ministry was complemented by a food drive run by Bruce Harris of Food2Share, bringing in non-perishables and toiletries for the church and the local Volunteers of America.

Volunteers from The Church in Aurora, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Cornerstone Church of Aurora gave of their time.

“During a time when the church doors have been mostly closed, the mission has been wide open. I have been amazed by the response of our church and community members who remind me that we are not commissioned to ‘go’ to church, but to ‘be’ the church,” said Rev. Derek Hickman of The Church in Aurora.

To learn more about the church’s ministry, request a “How Can We Help?” yard sign, or make a donation to the cause, call The Church in Aurora at 330-562-8266.