Recently I was reading the scripture of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. I thought of this scripture in relation to the Willow Church and Community Ministry (WCCM) and its newest area of growth, Willow Recycling.
About eighteen months ago a local woman asked me, “Was there a need at the Willow Community Food Pantry (WCFP) for which funds left over from past recycling projects could be used?” She wanted the funds to benefit Willow. I wondered why the recycling efforts were no longer in existence. She stated that a lack of volunteers and the resulting burn out of the leadership were the reason. We discussed using the money to reinstate a recycling program under the leadership and assistance of the WCCM. This excited her. We generated a list of people who recycled and contacted this group to ask them to plan a way to restart Willow Recycling. Our invitation to Molly, the Director of Valley Center for Recycling Solutions (VCRS) in Wasilla, was welcomed, and she joined us. What a wonderful resource! She was able to help us direct our thoughts and plans to a manageable level.
We surveyed Willow to see what persons were willing to recycle and invited folks to volunteer in various capacities. We made arrangements with the Willow Transfer site so folks could bring their recyclables one Saturday a month. A local camp was already recycling aluminum at the Transfer Site, so we started with plastic. For 15 months now, we have gathered this plastic and transported it to VCRS. Depending on the weather, 20 – 40 households recycle in this manner monthly. Different volunteers staff the collection site each month and transport the items to Wasilla. Most persons volunteer only once or twice a year, and a local business has provided gas cards to help cover the cost of transport.
We are hoping to partner with the Mid Valley Recycling group in Big Lake, so the Upper Su area can present a coordinated recycling effort. The leadership group has not burned out. More volunteers are getting involved. We are looking at plans to offer recycling education in Willow. We have spent very little of the original funds offered to support the WCFP, and we have received funds to support recycling from businesses, individuals, and the Willow Area Community Organization. We now have about three times more than what we started with! The loaves and fishes have multiplied.
As a Church and Community Worker, I am to help Willow UMC figure out how to meet the needs of the community. I do this by partnering with area churches, businesses, civic groups, and individuals not related to our church. This generates funds, volunteers, and leadership. Willow Recycling has touched a piece of the Willow community that was not in existence 18 months ago. Ministry grows because we live open doors, open hearts, open minds. We share our resources, money, time, talents, and service in such a manner that others share their resources with us. This is a witness to how we live as the community of God’s people. A few people have a conversation. Others are invited in. A plan develops, and action happens. We see results. Five loaves and two fish were shared. All were fed with 12 baskets left over. Welcome to the world of Church and Community Ministry!
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