Community partnerships serve returning citizens

Inside a state correctional facility, a man was introduced to the ministry of Amlin United Methodist Church by a fellow inmate. “Joe”* connected with the pastor of Amlin, the Rev. Steve Putka. Putka began to minister to this new member as he became active in the Amlin church community.

Joe is passionate about helping those like him in addition to the homeless and those struggling with addiction. He inspired the creation of the “Friendly Fare” ministry, a partnership serving the west side of Columbus.

Nancy Riley, a member of Amlin, is active with the West Ohio Annual Conference All in Community ministry. Riley shares Joe’s passion for serving those struggling with addiction. “With Joe as a part of our community,” she said, “it was an opportunity to create a ministry.”

During the pandemic, Joe connected Riley and others to Jordan’s Crossing, a resource center in west Columbus reaching out to returning citizens, homeless people and those struggling with addiction.

A ministry that started with four to five volunteers, Friendly Fare now has 15 volunteers representing multiple generations. In May, the ministry began making 100 lunches a week. Now that number has doubled to 200 per week. Each lunch includes a sandwich, fruit and nut bar, chips and fruit snacks. Bottled water was provided in the summer. To date, Friendly Fare has served nearly 5,000 bag lunches.

“We put an announcement in the church newsletter asking for support,” Riley said. “We broke down the total cost for each item that was a part of the lunch. We also explained the safety measures taken while making the lunch to keep everyone healthy.” Jordan’s Crossing is grateful for the support from the Amlin community.

Friendly Fare and Amlin have strengthened their commitment to working in partnership with Jordan’s Crossing. The grant-review board of All in Community recently awarded Amlin UMC $3,000 to support a Jordan’s Crossing goal of building showers. These will be available to anyone as part of the services offered by the resource center.

“I am convinced that people in our churches are looking for tangible ways to help those who have been so adversely impacted by this pandemic,” Putka said, “but they often don’t know how. We are a small church. Building relationships with other ministry partners is a great way for a small church to have a big impact in our communities. Who knows where God may lead us next?”

*A pseudonym

Written by Amy Graham, Communications Specialist