What if you had to choose between paying the mortgage and putting food on the table? Many of our neighbors have faced such impossible decisions during this past 15 months—from local tourism and service workers to small business owners and farmworkers.
In May 2020, First Church started the Save Our Home tax-deductible charitable fund specifically to help Southwest Florida residents whose income was directly aﬀected by the pandemic. First Church would receive and disburse all funds without taking any administrative fees, and we invited our members and friends to contribute. Your compassionate response allowed neighbors in our community to pay their bills and stay in their homes.
From May 2020 through mid-April 2021, First Church has written 148 checks to mortgage companies, landlords, utility companies, and auto repair shops to help those financially aﬀected. Some had lost their jobs due to COVID-19 or lost weeks/months of income because they had contracted the virus. This also impacted extended families with grandparents, parents, children, and grandchildren. Some were single moms or dads; a few were individuals.
The average gift was $685 and ranged from covering utility payments of $200 to a $1,200 mortgage payment. All of those helped had been vetted through Love INC, and their needs were identified and verified before referral to First Church.
With few exceptions, someone from the family met with one of our pastors when they picked up the check. Sometimes the whole family came. In some circumstances, a pastor would deliver the check to a residence or mail it after communicating by phone. The pastors always prayed with the recipients and for their families.
It was a joy to deliver these gifts to those suﬀering physical and financial stress like never before. They were deeply touched and grateful that First Church cared enough to help them. Time after time, recipients said they had never needed to reach out for this kind of help before. In the past, they could always pay their bills, but COVID-19 had interrupted their normal lives. Our pastors wanted each of them to know that their gift from our church was a personal gift from God to them. We heard of many who had recovered from the virus and were able to return to work, and of others who had lost their jobs but had since found new ones.
We pray that all these individuals are able to return to work, their children return to the classroom, and they find a new and joyful normal. We pray they will all remember that God sees them, loves them, hears their prayers, and desires a relationship with them.
by Pastor Emeritus Paul Fahnestock