Services Hub Helps Vulnerable Wheaton Families

It’s a Tuesday morning at Hughes United Methodist Church (HUMC) where a queue of cars starts in the parking lot and winds around the block and onto Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. This day is like other Tuesdays when hundreds of people on foot and in cars arrive to pick up food for their families.  HUMC is part of the county’s services consolidation effort to bring resources and services like food, rental assistance, and Covid testing directly to vulnerable residents in one central location.

 

IMPACT Network Builder Carmen Hernandez played the important role of connector in bringing the services hub to Hughes.  In March, she saw HUMC’s lead pastor, Rev. Diana Wingeier-Rayo, using church resources to provide food to 15 families from the surrounding neighborhood.  Knowing of county plans for a services hub, Carmen connected Rev. Diana to Luisa Montero (Executive Director, Mid-County Regional Services Center) and Councilmember Nancy Navarro. Soon, HUMC was part of the county effort to support families suffering during the pandemic and their weekly food distributions grew from 15 families to more than 500.

Rev. Diana sees HUMC as a community gathering place.  Partnering with Carmen more than a year ago, she welcomed IMPACT Diversity Dinners (events where diverse residents come together to build relationships over shared meals) and a Neighbors Exchange (a space where neighbors connect to each other and valuable resources).  More recently, Carmen has been leading community outreach for the services hub at HUMC; helping weekly with onsite logistics; raising awareness about the 2020 census; and serving on the organizing committee.

 

Carmen has also worked closely with Rev. Diana to ensure that the shared values of honoring everyone’s humanity and being relational rather than transactional are deeply ingrained in the hub.  Carmen shares Rev. Diana’s sentiment that, “We want people who come here to feel like they are part of a supportive community and not just getting a handout.”

 

UPDATE:  Carmen is helping residents launch a sewing academy at HUMC.  Look for more on this story in the coming weeks!

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