Ben & Ben's Excellent Adventure
Pastor Ben gives Ben Whalen a ride to "work" but they have different ideas of what that means...
In all seriousness, we believe it is essential that we live out our faith in the neighborhoods and communities we are a part of. For us that is primarily the city of Richfield. Check out below some of the different ways we are involved around town and see if you'd like to join us! Please contact Ben Whalen, our Director of Community Engagement, at email@example.com or 612-500-9523 if you have questions, want more info, or are ready to be a part of this!
Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis
Throughout the Twin Cities metro area, there is a severe shortage of affordable housing. Richfield is lucky to have a high percentage of its housing considered affordable but vacancy rates are very low and there is a lot of fear of displacement. To address this, we’ve volunteered with Aeon - a nonprofit housing provider who owns the apartments south of our church - to address ongoing maintenance concerns that previous owners of the complex had ignored.
Some House of Prayer members have also been involved with the Richfield Community Housing Team. This group works to empower tenants and make sure renters are part of the decision making process with Richfield City Council and City Staff as they work on policy solutions to protect tenants, preserve existing affordable housing, and produce new affordable housing.
Connections with Richfield Schools
When House of Prayer first started in 1953 and didn't yet have a building, the congregation worshipped in the gym of what is now the Richfield Dual Language School. Today we have several volunteers who go to RDLS once a week during the school year to work with students on their reading skills. One volunteer said, "One third grader I got to read with multiple times really made strides! In the short time we worked together she improved enough to move up a reading group in her class so it really made a difference!"
We also partner with The Sheridan Story to provide food for students over the weekends. Many families depend on the food served at schools and weekends or school breaks can stretch their budgets. The Sheridan Story brings food packages each Friday to students whose families request them. House of Prayer currently supports 15 students at Centennial Elementary thanks to generous donations from our members. Several volunteers from our church partner with members of Hope Church down the road to hand out the food packs each week.
Supporting Richfield Parks
Richfield has many beautiful parks around town and relies on volunteers through the "Adopt-A-Park" program to help keep them litter-free. We've adopted Christian Park off Bloomington Ave and 69th St and have clean up days a couple times each summer where we invite neighbors to come and care for the park with us!
There are also many opportunities to volunteer at the Wood Lake Nature Center, a beautfiul 150-acre natural area with hiking trails, nature programs, and lots of wildlife to see right in the middle of town. Possible roles for volunteers include helping in the office, bird watching, and assisting with special events like Earth Day, the Urban Wildland half-marathon, and others.
Each year Richfield gathers to celebrate several important occasions and we make sure to be there! Some of these events include:
Marching in the annual Fourth of July Parade
Having a table at Penn Fest each fall
Hosting our own Parking Lot Party at the end of summer
More? Where else should we participate?
Police Multicultural Advisory Committee (PMAC)
The Richfield Police Department knows police-community relations are strained all across the country and wants to rebuild that trust and communication. One way they work toward that is through PMAC, a group of citizens working with RPD to better communicate with the community to understand and address residents' hopes and concerns. Several of our members have joined or volunteered with PMAC for monthly conversations, Unity in the Community (pictured here), Heroes & Helpers, public forums, and other events designed to build trust and care not just between officers and residents but between people of the many cultures and backgrounds represented in Richfield. For more info about PMAC and its parent program, JCPP, click here.
In response to increased anti-immigrant sentiments in our country and hearing the fears and concerns of our immigrant neighbors, we as a congregation are working to show our love and support for immigrant communities around us. The Bible is clear that our response to immigrants is to be one of welcome, care, and support.
One way we're living this out is offering Citizenship Classes to people who are preparing for the Citizenship Exam. We've partnered with Hope Church and Arrive Ministries to offer a 10-week prep course and hope to continue offering this multiple times per year.
Another partnership we've formed is with Conversations with Friends, an organization that connects volunteer letter writers with immigrant detainees. Some of our members write regularly to people in immigration detention in hopes that a simple letter can brighten up an otherwise very hard time.
The Veggie Table
Our area of town is what's known as a "food desert" - it can be hard to access food, especially fresh produce, without a car. The Veggie Table is a chance each summer for people who want fresh produce to come get it for free and spend some time socializing with neighbors. We partner with Second Harvest to provide the food and Aeon who hosts us at the parking lot of Season's Park Apartments (951 East 77th St). We hope you can join us as a volunteer, donor, or just to get produce!