Beginning 20 years ago with a congregational desire to reach out to the community to help homeless individuals, couples and children, the Matthew Project has preserved its legacy of helping those less fortunate in the Greater Milford area. Taking its mission directly from the words of Jesus Christ in The Gospel of St. Matthew chapter 25, verses 35,36, “for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…”, the Matthew Project seeks to help those in need in many different ways.
The first family helped by the Matthew Project over two decades ago was a single woman that had trouble paying her entire rent for the month. Members of the church helped to pay the partial payment so that the women could continue school and get a job. The second family was homeless, lost full time jobs and were living in a motel while working day jobs to survive. They were assisted with transportation, rent, household furnishings and connections to jobs. With help from the Matthew project and hard work by the family themselves, they were able to prosper, become home owners and raise two children that are currently in high school and college.
“The church becomes very personal in the lives of those that the Matthew project helps,” commented Joanne Burbage, organizer of The Matthew Project. “That individual or family becomes a name to us not just a number. Our volunteers care for these individuals and many times build on top of what they already need.”
Referrals of those in need come from many sources in the Milford community including schools, State Public Health and Social Services, non-profits such as People’s Place and other churches and individuals that call the Avenue United Methodist Church for help. Volunteers listen to the needs of the individuals and try to collect household or clothing items directly from the congregation. If the need is greater than what the church can support, they help the individual find the correct community group that can assist them.
As a whole, the church congregation mobilizes to find items needed by posting the needs in the church bulletin and asking neighbors and friends. In 2011 alone, 212 families donated items to Avenue United Methodist and 269 families received donations facilitated by the church. In that year, 29 baby items, 33 beds, 43 chairs and 29 appliances were donated. Among those volunteering their time, 93 individuals volunteered to help with transportation and over 66 families assisted in other ways than donating household items.
“We are passing on the love of God,” commented Ms. Burbage. “passing it on with our time and our arms and backs.”
Throughout the year The Matthew Project and Avenue United Methodist Church partner with a myriad of groups including the United Methodist Women and Men, Meals on Wheels, Circle of Light, Home of the Brave, God’s Way to Recovery, Relay for Life, People’s Place, Heart’s Unlimited, Adopt A Family, Argo Linoleum, Calvary UMC, Veterans of Foreign Wars, St. Paul’s UMC, The Way Home Prison Ministry, Public Health and Social Services and Dover Interfaith Shelter.
After 20 years of commitment to the community, The Matthew Project is still helping those less fortunate in the Milford area in a large way and will continue to help give those in need a helping hand. Individuals that want to become a part of the Matthew Project, know someone in need or want to make a donation are encouraged to call the Avenue United Methodist Church at 302-422-4078.