St. Stephen’s runs a very active list of social justice ministries within the parish and beyond. If you are interested in being a part of any of the service opportunities below please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Everyone is welcome and many hands make light work!
In 2013, St Stephen’s established a partnership with the PATCH (Parents and their Children) program which is an outreach to children who have an incarcerated parent in Essex County. We offer a week-long summer camp where kids aged 6-12 years learn African Drumming, and other arts and crafts. Professional instruction is provided, along with support from our local community volunteers. Many local restaurants donate a wonderful dinner to the camp for the kids and volunteers.
The program has now been extended to offer regular monthly Saturday instruction, to develop skills further, and St. Stephen’s has connected with Harvest of Blessings, an outreach of the American Baptist Church to support the program. We also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Diocese’s ACTs/VIM fund.
Al’s Veggie Patch:
Coordinators: Suzanne Holt and Phoebe Holt-Reiss
Al’s Veggie Patch was created in memory of long serving parishioner Al Connelee. Mr Connelee was an avid gardener who would host the Sunday School Children each summer in his plot across from the church. It was the highlight of summer Sunday school as the children would help themselves to cherry tomatoes and green beans.
When Mr. Connelee passed away the children requested they create a garden in his honor. Children from the church tend the garden during the weekend and are supported in the week by the pre school watering brigade!
Recipients of the harvest are local food pantries, soup kitchens and the senior citizen luncheon club.
Angel Tree: A Christmas Project
Coordinators: Margo Greenfield and Ellen Pluta
For a number of years, St. Stephen’s has worked with social service agencies to provide Christmas gifts for needy families in our area.
Parishioners who participate in the Angel Tree project may elect to provide gifts to an individual or to an entire family. Guidelines for appropriate gifts are provided.
Beginning on the last Sunday in November, members of the parish are given the opportunity at coffee hour to take paper angels on which the first names of children and adults are written. Gift collection is at the coffee hour on a Sunday in mid December. In addition to bringing gifts, parish members may assist the coordinators with the sorting and distribution of gifts.
Coordinators: Alex Cole
St. Stephen’s volunteers regularly spend Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at this senior center in West Orange to share activities such as Bingo and enjoy fellowship with the residents. Several times throughout the year young people and their parents arrange special activities, like providing Christmas caroling, Halloween trick or treating, and Valentine’s Day sweets.
Coordinator: Claas Ehlers
St. Stephen’s, in partnership with local high school and Girl Scout troops shares in the work of providing meals at the Soup Kitchen housed at Holy Trinity Church in West Orange. Three or four times a year St. Stephen’s hosts the meal. This involves preparing meals and providing all the extras in order for individuals in West Orange to enjoy nutritious food and warm fellowship. Hosting on a Saturday means handling set up and preparation from 10:30 am to noon; serving guests at noon; and then cleaning up after 1 pm. Each Saturday approximately 80 guests are served. This is a meaningful activity for families to undertake together.
St. John’s Kitchen in Elizabeth
Coordinators: Sam and Soraya Polanco
Three times a year we serve at St John’s in downtown Elizabeth on the fourth Sunday of the month. Most of the 70+ clients are living in local shelters. St Stephen’s provides a nutritious meal that can be eaten there, plus extras like hard boiled eggs (that do not need refrigeration)that can be taken away. A volunteer team of about 12 older teens and adults prepares, delivers and serves from 12- 3pm. Often we take extra items like new socks, hats and gloves to help our very grateful clientele. It is by giving back that we truly appreciate all the blessings that have been bestowed upon us. The community at St. John’s is always thankful and asks us to come back soon. This shows that we not only feed their tummies but their hearts and souls.
Coordinator: Felder Dorn
St. Stephen’s has a food barrel in which we collect non-perishable food items for distribution to the hungry. We have a basket under the ushers’ table at the entrance of the church, and we ask that you bring food offerings to the Sunday service that you attend and place them in the barrel. During the week, the food barrel is located in the narthex. Some appropriate items are pasta, canned vegetables, canned fruit, dried fruit, soups, cereals, peanut butter, rice, beans, powdered milk, coffee, tea, and canned tuna. Food is collected primarily for Apostles’ House, a transitional house for the homeless in Newark, which last year served over 14,000 clients.
Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN)
Program Coordinator: Margo Greenfield and Claas Ehlers
Meals Coordinator: Sara Ruth Dorn
This is an ecumenical ministry to homeless families of Essex County. The Director of the Essex County IHN works with churches and synagogues that are members of the network. Each participating congregation houses three to four families in their buildings for a week or two each year. The families move each week to another host church or synagogue until they find suitable housing. The Network Director screens and selects the families, who are referred by the Legal Aid Society, Welfare, and other social agencies. She guides them in their search for housing, job training, and employment.
This outreach project involves 50 or more parishioners during each hosting week and affords opportunities for everyone to help. Some volunteers stay in the Parish Hall overnight with the guest families. Others prepare and serve meals, move cots and belongings, do laundry, play with children, and make monetary and food contributions. There also is the opportunity just to be a friend to another or to offer a listening ear.
St. Stephen’s hosts IHN guests during the vacation weeks for the Preschool.
Coordinator: Theresa Scharff
The North Porch Women and Infants’ Centers, a project of the Episcopal Churchwomen in the Diocese of Newark, provide emergency seven-day supplies of formula, baby food, diapers, clothing, bed linens and other supplies for needy mothers and infants in the Newark, Paterson, Dover and Clifton areas of northern New Jersey.
Besides maintaining a collection box throughout the year for donations of baby supplies, on two occasions St. Stephen’s held a “Baby Shower at Coffee Hour” to focus attention on the need for contributions. Parents at St. Stephen’s Preschool also contributed to this project.
Turkey Box Dinners: A Thanksgiving Project
Coordinators: Owen and Patricia Moore
Each year during Thanksgiving season, community agencies in Essex County distribute box dinners to families in need.
Parishioners are encouraged to donate a box dinner containing all the ingredients needed to prepare a festive holiday meal for a family. Parishioners are asked to sign up in advance so that St. Stephen’s may advise the agencies of the number of dinners to be provided. Lists of menu items to be included in the box and a sign-up sheet are made available to donors during coffee hour about three weeks before Thanksgiving. Members that wish to be involved but are unable to shop themselves may make a financial donation. Youth group members shop for the dinner ingredients and assemble those boxes. Turkey dinners are collected in the Parish Hall on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
In addition to donating box dinners, drivers are needed each year to make deliveries to the agencies. Parishioners may volunteer for delivery service when signing up to provide a dinner. Last year St. Stephen’s delivered 42 boxes, which provided Thanksgiving dinner for approximately 255 people.
Seamen’s Mission, Port Elizabeth
Coordinators: Sheelagh Clarke
The Mission to Seafarers’ frontline staff are there for seafarers in trouble, distress, or despair. Piracy, shipwreck, abandonment and separation from loved ones are just a few of the problems merchant seafarers face.
St. Stephen’s parishioners have knitted hundreds of scarves and hats as gifts for seaman entering Port Elizabeth. If you are interested in being part of the knitting team, patterns can be downloaded here. Wool donations are also accepted to help keep our knitters busy throughout the year.