First United has mission partners that work within the church and in the wider community. We support these programs financially as well as with volunteers’ time and effort.
Beyond Hunger (formerly Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry): (gobeyondhunger.org) This agency, housed in the church itself, provides hunger relief in our community, giving assistance to 15,000 families each year. The Food Pantry changed its name to Beyond Hunger in June 2019 to reflect the evolving needs of the broader community. Besides food, the agency offers nutrition and health education, healthy cooking classes, and counseling for clients about benefits. Volunteers help in various shifts and jobs on Wednesdays and Saturdays, from stocking food to rescuing food items donated by local merchants to checking in clients to helping carry bags out to clients’ cars.
BUILD: (buildchicago.org) The mission of BUILD, or Broader Urban Involvement & Leadership Development, is to engage at-risk youth in Chicago’s schools and streets so they can realize their educational and career potential and contribute to the stability, safety, and well being of our communities. BUILD works against gun violence and specializes in gang intervention, prevention, and youth programs for nearly 3,000 teens in the Chicagoland area.
Cluster Tutoring: (clustertutoring.org) Volunteer tutors and students in grades K-12 from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood meet for one-to-one tutoring and mentoring on Thursday nights at the church, September through May. Sessions last 90 minutes, and activities focus on reading, vocabulary, math, and homework.
Housing Forward: (housingforward.org) The agency offers homeless clients a path to temporary and permanent housing. It also offers a place to sleep at the PADS Emergency Overnight Shelter during cold weather months every Monday night at First United. Housing Forward also runs Prevail, in which volunteers work with clients to help them address factors contributing to their immediate financial crisis and to create plans to put them on the path forward. Volunteers from our church help run the emergency shelter on third and fifth Mondays each month.
Refugee Family sponsorship: The church has formed the First United Refugee Support Team (FURST). We are co-sponsoring a six-person refugee family from Iraq through the local refugee agency, Refugee One. Church members are helping to furnish the family’s apartment and get them acclimated to Chicago. Some also serve as tutors for the family’s four children and assist with other long-term needs.
New Moms: (newmoms.org) This group helps teen mothers break the cycle of poverty and change the future for young moms who are experiencing poverty and homelessness in Chicago. Church members help with an annual holiday effort so that young teen moms can find Christmas gifts for their children, and church school classes plant flower pots as Mother’s Day gifts.
The Faith in Action Committee also sponsors other groups ranging from those supporting refugees in Syria and Colombia to environmental groups to an agency that offers temporary housing for homeless patients after they leave the hospital.