Small church makes big grant to help homeless

This small congregation — "having been a homeless church for a while" — recognized the homeless population's needs, said The Rev. Dr. Earnest Watkins, pastor of the Wheeling Island church. "We are called as Christians to take care of the sick and the needy. This is a needy population with special needs."

Watkins and his congregation, New Life United Methodist Church, donated a generous gift of $100,000 during a presentation ceremony to Project HOPE for the purchase of a mobile medical unit to serve the community's homeless population. Project HOPE (Homeless Outreach Partnership Effort) is the street medicine program of the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department. The donation represents part of a large bequest which the church recent received.

The pastor said the donation represents "part of the total picture of how we have been blessed and the church's desire to be a part of cutting-edge activities/ministries. We are becoming partners in ministry with Project HOPE, first financially and then we hope to provide some clergy support in the treatment rounds that they provide."

Crystal Bauer, director of Project HOPE, said the large gift is "pretty surreal." She added, "I think it's divine intervention."

Bauer said the health department plans to purchase a 23-foot mobile medical unit costing $135,000. A gift of $50,000 from another fund and private donations of $6,000 will cover the balance of the purchase price and allow them to buy other equipment, such as wall-mounted diagnostic tools, for the unit, she said.

The new unit will have a truck front and will feature an examination area, generator and canopy. The unit will have enough space for personnel to conduct examinations and perform small surgical procedures, she said.

Project HOPE's teams of medical volunteers will take the mobile unit on weekly street rounds to homeless encampments and shelters.

During the daytime, the health department can use the mobile medical unit for vaccination clinics, needle exchanges and disaster relief in the community, Mercer said.

"This shows what the community can do to help," Mercer said. "We can be a model for other counties in the state."

New Life United Methodist Church "inherited a portfolio of extravagant generosity and wanted to be extravagant in being generous" to other entities in the community, Watkins said. The church also plans to donate $86,000 in proceeds from the bequest to other churches, ministries and service providers.

In mid-2018, New Life received a portfolio trust fund from the estate of Gertrude Hyer, who died in the 1990s and was a member of the former Thomson United Methodist Church. Hyer's will stipulated that upon the death of her last heir, the portfolio would be given to Thomson, Watkins said. However, Thomson no longer exists; it and three other Methodist churches in Wheeling merged to form New Life several years ago.

Linda Comins, staff writer, The Intellingencer, Weeling News Register

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.