In 2013, Community Missions' ministry and community partnerships offered 118 opportunities for faith and spiritual development for those it serves, and totaled 83 community partners, according to information released by the agency Thursday. The total equates to offering an activity or opportunity for engagement once every three days to Niagara's most vulnerable.
Founded in 1925, Community Missions administers 18 programs, providing Niagara County with a wide range of services, including those focused on crisis, community, youth, and those living with mental illnesses. The agency provided more than 75,000 meals and 10,000 nights of shelter last year, while offering mental health services to hundreds of individuals.
"We have worked hard over the past few years to provide new and often innovative voluntary opportunities for those we serve to explore, develop and strengthen their faith and spiritual wellbeing," said Rev. Mark Breese, agency minister and director of ministry and community partnerships at Community Missions. "It is so important for those struggling with poverty, homelessness and mental illness to have hope. The religious, faith and spiritual development opportunities we offer are a key part of how Community Missions serves the whole person."
The mission of the ministry and community partnerships is to offer opportunities and resources for religious, spiritual and faith development to those CMI serves, its staff, and opportunities for faith-based community partnerships.
Among the highlights of the program in 2013 were:
•Weekly chapel services offered at the agency's main building, which houses many of the crisis and community services, including the community soup kitchen, homeless shelter, etc.
•The Gardens of Compassion project that was conducted during the summer months in conjunction with St. James United Methodist Church in Niagara Falls and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County. This program offered an opportunity for adults participating in Community Missions' programs, specifically those with a mental illness, to grow and eat fresh foods from their own garden, while educating the community to break down the stigma associated with mental illness.
•Fellowship meetings at Community Missions' mental health program sites to engage discussion and education regarding faith, spiritual development, and how to help individuals grow their overall wellness.
•The Sunday Cabaret program, a monthly engagement of local churches that provides a meal and entertainment to those involved with Community Missions' services.
•A total of 38 groups conducted activities with Community Missions throughout the year, including youth groups coming to volunteer their time for up to a week, churches participating in the Sunday Cabaret, and groups conducting clothing, food or fundraising drives to support CMI.
Along with these opportunities, the mission's minister, Breese, engages in one-on-one conversation and offers a pastoral presence for any consumers of CMI services that request it. In 2013, he documented 247 such contacts, described as "significant pastoral contacts."
A majority of the funds necessary to operate the crisis and community services division come directly from individual and corporate donations, grant support from foundations, and fundraising events. Those interested in learning more about the agency, or donating to its mission, are encouraged to visit www.CommunityMissions.org, or call 716-285-3403.