In July 2014, a group of all ages gathered at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church for the simple goal of feeding the homeless. Service Sunday was born, with folks gathering on the second Sunday of each month to make sack lunches for those lined up outside the doors of Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County (UGM), hoping for a meal. Over 1,300 sack lunches have fed those in need since this ministry began.
Service Sunday has expanded with monthly giving campaigns to help support the ministry of UGM. After a year of reaching out with love to those in need, teens and adults gathered for a week of mission work at UGM.
On July 20-23, a team of volunteers loaded up in vehicles each morning around 8:00 am, donning blue “volunteer” shirts. They gathered for prayer and left the St. Martin’s parking lot, not knowing exactly what the day would bring.
Lezlee Kinney, volunteer coordinator at UGM, offered many areas for our team to volunteer. From leading chapel, sorting books and clothes in the donation warehouse to scrubbing pews in the chapel, teens and adults worked side by side to make a difference. But, the single most transformative experience for our group was found in the large kitchen and dining hall that provides lunch for over 300 people each day.
Teens and adults were tasked with chopping vegetables, setting the tables with napkins and silverware, and helping prepare a healthy meal for the children, teens and adults who often wonder where their next meal may be found. Each guest was served “restaurant style” with a teen or adult bringing their meal directly to their table.19307605043_b389b5c74e_k
Lunch was a fast operation, with teens and adults swooping to clear and clean tables and prepare for the next round of guests entering the dining area. Those who entered the dining hall were exhausted from the heat and looking for a few moments of rest and “comfort food.”
On the last day of City Week, teens and adult volunteers gathered for a brainstorming session, to think of ideas and programs that might benefit UGM. Paula Maddon, an adult volunteer, recalled a moment:

We were talking about if we had $1000 to spend, what we could do with this amount of money to make a difference in the lives of homeless people. As we were discussing ideas, the conversation turned around to whether the homeless person ever imagined when they were teens that they ever would be in the situation that they are in now—homeless. The kids were really quiet and thoughtful for a while, and the consensus was that at their age now, they couldn’t imagine that they would ever need the services of a place such as Union Gospel Mission—that they’d ever end up homeless, and therefore they decided the typical homeless person never thought they would be in the situation they were in now.
I think this conversation really made a lasting impression on them. And they all agreed that they were so thankful that there was such a place as Union Gospel Mission to help homeless people.19740599638_a403f48420_k
This experience was transformative in many ways for the teens involved each day. Our group was invited to help with the monthly birthday party held for children celebrating their birthday while living at UGM. Rose Ackley, a youth volunteer, had this to say about her experience:

It was so good to see the people who came to celebrate their birthdays be happy! When I came over to help this family [by giving them some water to use for painting crafts], they said thank you every single time I came over, which was a lot! I found out later that family was making calls about getting a home soon, and I was ECSTATIC for them!!!
I also LOVED seeing the kids faces when we did crafts and when we handed out food trays; their smiles just broke my heart but warmed it at the same time! You were right when you said we became different people after each day of the mission trip!
The adult volunteers from St. Martin’s enjoyed working alongside teens. The importance and need for more intergenerational ministry is evident in this quote from and adult volunteer:
I enjoyed being with the youth and the other adults. It caused me to get out of my concerns and the concerns of my fellow “oldsters” and to realize how wonderful the outlook of the youth are at St. Martin. They are very caring and eager to help others not as fortunate as they are.” said Joan Thelin, an adult volunteer.19945538852_c2a08abb50_k
At the end of our week at UGM, Lezlee Kinney had these words for our volunteers:
You all thanked me, [but] it is the Mission who thanks you all. Your serving hearts, attitudes and effort were amazing to witness.
We look forward to many more experiences and memories with St. Martin-in-the-Fields!
It was the consensus of the group that they would like to return soon and continue to be a part of the ministry to end homelessness at UGM. Look for more opportunities this year for projects and volunteer opportunities at UGM. Many thanks to Lezlee Kinney and the gracious UGM staff and volunteers for their warm welcome of our group. Also a big “thank you” goes to our parish family for financial support of youth ministry and our clergy and volunteers who made City Week possible.19330510454_e0d6fc6e3c_z
Check out pics from our City Week mission trip experience. We are in the process of adding more pictures to this gallery, so you are invited to visit this link often.