If you found a $100 bill, what would you spend it on? New shoes? A nice meal? What about donating it or organizing something nice for your neighborhood?
At Bay Village’s St. Barnabas Episcopal Church on Bradley Road near Bay Lodge, parishioners were asked to do the latter and give back to the community as part of a new initiative called The Good Neighbor Project.
“Once the pandemic hit, a lot of the ways that we normally reach out and serve our neighbors just weren’t possible because of the social-distancing requirements,” said the Rev. Alex Martin. “We figured this would be the perfect time to do something like this.”
The goal of the project was to give church members a way to individually help the community and have a shared outreach experience despite not being able to come together.
The project began May 26 with all 110 families in the church’s congregation getting packets filled with a letter written by Martin, money and a survey. The money had rules to ensure each parishioner would follow through. For starters, it couldn’t be given back to the church. The good act didn’t have to be in Bay Village and when it was done, the church had to be told what the money was used for. Of course, if any parishioners were struggling financially, they were allowed to keep the money themselves, Martin said.
“There was a notation at the bottom of each letter explaining that if the money would be better used to help them get through the pandemic, then they could use the money for themselves,” he said. “I didn’t want to give money to the hungry and then say that they needed to go buy food for someone else.”
Participants have used the money for a variety of things. They ranged from designing and donating masks to frontline workers to arranging for an ice cream truck to come through a neighborhood so residents could socialize with each other.
“I thought this was a really cool idea,” said Bay resident Scott Williams, who donated his money to the Cleveland Food Bank. “It really forced you to put forth some mental energy to really think about where is there a need in our community. There are many compelling places that need help right now, whether it’s lunches for school kids who aren’t getting them to social justice issues. We felt like we needed to make a significant difference in our community.”
Williams approached Martin with the idea before the pandemic. It’s inspired by a story Jesus Christ told one of his followers about a good Samaritan who helped a badly injured stranger when others did not.
The project’s goal aligned perfectly with the church, which was built in 1950, and its core values of community, inclusion, justice, peace and love. However, Martin believes the project extends beyond his church and that a good neighbor can come from anywhere.
“You don’t have to be a part of the church to be a good neighbor,” he said. “The neighbors that are called to serve aren’t just the people who live next to us or think like us or vote like us. Good neighbors are called to serve anyone that we see who is in need.”
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