The Church of the Good Shepherd offers free masks, meals and coffee
In this time of uncertainty with the coronavirus pandemic, a local church is helping create a sense of community built around helping neighbors. The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 64 University Terrace, has created its own different strategies when it comes to offering help and more to the community.
“We are engaged until everything is clear, and maybe even a little after,” said Deborah Woolsey, rector of the Church. “We’re not going to pretend it’s not happening. We are with you.
The Church is offering free masks to any members of the community who may need them. Originally hung on the tree, the masks are now found attached to the handrails of the front staircase.
“Very early in the pandemic, probably April or May 2020, we received 150 free face masks from one of our ministry partners,” Woolsey said. “We weren’t meeting in person, so we didn’t need masks. So we decided to share them with the community.
Since the start of the pandemic, the church has distributed about 2,300 masks, Woolsey said. As long as masks are needed, the Church has no intention of ending this convenience.
“I think it’s great that the church is keeping people safe,” said Adam Schlosser, a freshman journalism student. “Some people might not have easy access to it, given the different circumstances. So the fact that they’re able to provide that to people is pretty awesome.
The church believes masks should not be out of reach when the world is going through such difficult times.
“If you’re going to have warrants where people have to have them, I think they should be offered for free because people forget,” Woolsey said. “So we just started buying them and putting them out.”
It is not only masks that the church offers to the community, but also coffee and tea. Established approximately four years ago, The Crossroads Cafe has enabled the church to participate in the local economy and create unique connections with students and citizens.
“The bishop of our diocese approached me and said he would like to explore how we can participate in the local economy in a way that expresses our Christian values and identity,” Woolsey said. “We looked at many different designs and decided to create a cafe.”
There are no credit cards or loyalty points; only cash is accepted. But the cafe has set up a unique program for members of the community who may not have the money.
“It’s called ‘Pay It Forward,’ so someone paid for it,” Woolsey said. “It’s not a debt, you don’t owe anything. You can take your coffee and leave and never come back, or you can come back and pay for your coffee, have another cup of coffee, or you can contribute to this Pay It Forward fund.
The Pay It Forward program is an attractive option for students and citizens.
“The Pay It Forward program is a pretty smart idea,” Schlosser said. “People want coffee, and given the different circumstances people may have, that’s cool.”
It’s more than just cups of coffee that the cafe offers, it’s a place designed to allow community bonds to flourish.
Eleanor Halbauer is the manager of Crossroads Cafe. Halbauer really enjoys working at Crossroads because it gives her the opportunity to be the mother of all the customers that come by.
“It’s a space for them to feel comfortable, to be able to vent issues, to discuss concepts of what they need to do, to get comfortable being an adult,” said Halbauer.
Although Crossroads offers more than just refreshments to the community, the clientele is relatively small. Making the boutique more established is a goal for Woolsey and Halbauer.
“I wish it was filled with students doing their homework,” Halbauer said. “I wish it would continue to grow and a lot more people would feel comfortable coming in and enjoying the great coffee.”
Before the pandemic, the church offered a weekly meal open to all members of the community. With difficulties finding volunteers and precautions regarding the pandemic, the church has changed its approach to addressing food insecurity.
“We have a cupboard over there full of non-perishable food that people can get 24/7,” Woolsey said. “We advertised it as not just a place where you can come get food, but you can donate food. It’s been really nice for us to see how many people want to participate.
From masks to coffee and food products, the Church of the Good Shepherd has no plans to stop its offerings to the community.
“We’re committed as long as it goes,” Woolsey said. “We all hope that next month it will be over. As long as this lasts, we will offer masks.