Westwood UMC has a passion for its community, which is located in Westwood, the largest and most densely populated neighborhood of Cincinnati. For the past 10 years, Westwood UMC has been leveraging its community relationships to support its neighbors in need through My Neighbor's Place (westwoodmnp.org). Here, local neighbors can receive free clothing and food with a healthy dose of God’s grace and love through local community volunteers. Now, by partnering with The West Ohio Conference in the 30-For-30 Pilot Program, Westwood UMC will be reaching out more intentionally to embrace its neighbors impacted by crime or incarceration.
“We at Westwood UMC, and the community of My Neighbor’s Place, are blessed to extend our love of Jesus Christ to mentor and foster relationships with men and women returning from incarceration. How wonderful to have volunteers, some previously helped by MNP, now stepping out in faith to help others through difficult transitions while reintegrating into society. We are pleased to work with individuals while incarcerated, their families as they face the unexpected, and their loved ones as they navigate life on the outside, while providing Christian support and refuge,” explains Barb Vogt, Westwood’s 30-For-30 team leader.
As a 30-For-30 Pilot Program Church, Westwood will be receiving training and coaching in the Healing Communities Framework, Missional Ministry in the Grace Margins, Cultural Competency, and Asset-based Community Engagement. Westwood is forming two in-reach teams that will be mentoring men and women returning to the Cincinnati community from local correctional institutions prior to their release. At the same time, Westwood UMC leaders want to develop deeper, healing relationships in their community with neighbors who visit My Neighbor's Place and provide communal care for their own congregants effected by crime. They see the 30-For-30 Pilot Program as a catalyst for doing both.
"Our 30-For-30 team began a weekly small group and are supporting one another in prayer, following our Church's model of worship, grow, and serve. I'm excited to see how the Holy Spirit will be transforming the lives of the team members, their new friends who are experiencing incarceration or in the midst of re-entry, as well as the life of our church. All Christians are called to GO make disciples and to love others, and when we visit prisoners we have the distinct honor of visiting Christ himself," says Sarah Beach, Executive Director of My Neighbor’s Place and Director of Outreach Ministries.
If your church is interested in learning more about the 30-For-30 Pilot Program, contact Reba Collins, WOC All In Community Consultant, at rebakco [at] gmail.com or 513-262-0184. Westwood also welcomes other churches to join one of their in-reach mentoring teams. Contact Barb Vogt at barbsvogt [at] gmail.com for more details.