Westminster has a very active outreach program. Our faith calls us to exercise compassion in the world in the following areas of peace and justice: 1)the homeless, 2) the hungry, 3) those lacking health care and clean water and suffering from diseases, 4) the disenfranchised and victims of unfair systems, 5) those who are not safe and are subject to violence and mistreatment, 6) those lacking education or job skills, 7) those who suffer from prejudices due to lack of understanding diversity, 8) peacemaking projects. Currently we fund several agencies and programs. In addition church members also volunteer their services as well as serving on boards of directors of some of the agencies.
In cooperation with another local church, Westminster founded ACORN Clinics in 1973 to provide health services to indigent and low-income families in rural north central Florida. In 2012, over 3,000 patients were served by mostly volunteer staff. Healthcare professionals contributed services valued at $1.64 million.
Westminster is a host congregation providing shelter space in the church for homeless families for a week 4 times a year as well as food and shelter staff. Family Promise, formerly IHN, also provides temporary transitional housing and case management to families with employment income to develop a plan to move into permanent housing. 25 families with 36 adults and 65 children were served in 2012.
Provides help and hope to people in Alachua County who are living at or below poverty level. Services include a food bank, clothing, assistance with utility bills, assistance getting photo ID’s, GED classes, parenting classes, “Jobs for Life” classes, security deposits to move into housing, job searches; and dental, medical, mental health, physical therapy, and vision clinics. The mission of the program is to “give a hand up,” not a “hand out.” In other words, to gain the skills and resources to overcome poverty. In 2012 a total of 17,348 people were helped.
Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. Serving very low and low income people with housing needs, GCM helps people obtain home ownership. The family and volunteers provide most of the labor. Habitat is also renovating and refurbishing homes. Recently they have expanded to a Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. Westminster has participated in 10 builds.
A program of St. Augustine Presbytery, each year a medical/dental team of volunteers is sent to Jamaica; a dental team is sent to Jamaica twice a year, and each year Presbytery youth partner with Jamaican youth for a two week cross cultural experience spending one week in each country. Westminster is also a sister church with the First Presbyterian Church in Havana and once a year our church visits the church in Havana as well as church members visiting here from Havana.
Presbytery of St. Augustine Camp and Conference Center served 5,000 in 2012. Many children attend summer camp and meeting places are provided for various groups and organizations. They offer several youth, adult, and senior adult programs during the year.
NFWM nurtures advocacy and support of farm worker organizations in faith communities, most of which ordinarily would not see or think about farm workers who are being exploited with low wages, bad working conditions, poor housing, and non-existent health care. NFWM organizes faith community consumer campaigns in support of farm worker self-help programs such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Fair Food Campaign.
This program, started by a member of Westminster, provides a safe homelike setting for young men 18 y.o. to 24 y.o. who have completed a course of study through the Job Corps providing them with work certificates for jobs in specific areas. The Preserve provides information access to services needed to live independently and referrals to other needed services. Two of the young men are attending Santa Fe College and scholarships are now available to help the young men complete their studies at Santa Fe College.
Westminster is an affiliate member of the alliance which is a network of local synagogues, mosques, churches, fellowships, student groups, community organizations, and political and academic leaders who joined together during July 2010 to study about, educate the community and work towards a just solution for our local and national immigration crisis.
Other Community Organizations:
Our buildings are used during the week by groups that include AA, NA, Al-Anon, Girl Scouts, and Theta Alpha Sorority.
Other Programs and Projects:
- Westminster is a partner to Westwood Middle School which can involve tutoring, provides an Angel Tree for families at Christmas, and participates in the school back pack program in the fall
- County Jail Ministry provides volunteers to work with groups of inmates on anger management, creative writing, and improving self-esteem.
- Fair Trade Coffee Project
- Healthy Women/Healthy Families Mother’s Day Card Project, which raises money to provide needed medical care for pregnant women and children in sub-Saharan Africa.
- United Nations Day Sponsor
- River Phoenix Center for Peacebuilding which is a local effort to coordinate and facilitate the Gainesville community peacemaking efforts through “raising awareness and building skills through education and experiences that will empower individuals and groups in their personal and collective lives.” RPCP has been particularly effective in bringing together community resources to raise awareness of and address the problem of bullying in the local community.
- Food 4Kids North Florida Provides food for school children on weekends, holidays and summer