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Atkinson Outreach

This personal outreach of St. Andrew's has a very long history. It has been a part of our Outreach during the tenures of several priests. Begun as a way of giving St. Andrew's an "in person" form of outreach rather than just sending a check, by a young woman in preparation for becoming a deacon. She envisioned giving men in a men's center in Coatesville the sort of meal we might give our guests instead of the typical spaghetti with sauce and bread that was frequently food at homeless shelters. During normal times the Atkinson Center has been a place where the men can live while going through a program designed to fit them to be able to find jobs and also have the skills and understanding to keep them. At one time I was told they had 21 or 22 beds and had men who had just come out of jail as well as men who had lost their jobs and been unable to find another. This usually meant they had also lost their house or apartment and car. Giving them the sort of home cooked meal one would give a guest is a way of showing respect for them as people.

Our normal custom of not only taking the food down but also readying it to be served and serving them ourselves is another way of showing respect for them as individuals and gives us the opportunity to chat a bit and find out more about their problems and what they must do to regain a place of their own in this world.

In the past we have encouraged families to take children down to help with the serving. The men have always enjoyed having the young people down. When our Youth Group cooked the dinner (frequently chili) and took it down and served it the men were especially delighted and many took the opportunity to introduce themselves and share a bit of conversation with our teens. When the originator of this outreach left St. Andrew's (during the time Elsa Mintz was our Rector) a couple who had frequently taken meals down with their two boys took over making the menus and frequently taking the food down themselves. When they left there seemed to be no one to keep this ministry going so I started making the menus from the recipes Joan Bradford had gathered into a notebook for us. The menu and recipes were made available every month. Volunteers prepared the food and families volunteered to deliver and serve it to the men. Caroline Mccartney used to take her children with her and have them eat their supper at the tables with the men. The men always enjoyed having children come and be involved in serving or eating their own suppers with them.

This outreach ministry seems to me to be one uniquely suited to allow our children begin to understand that not everyone has a house or apartment in which to live and that not everyone can afford to buy food every day, but that those of us who do have food, clothes and homes can share what we have and help others in a real way. St. Andrew's has been involved with the Atkinson Center in Coatesville for a long time; it may be as much as 30 years – or even more. There will be changes in some ways but I hope the core purpose will remain.

Martha Thomae

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