The church RESPOND’S

Found this article and just wanted to pass along the good news of what the church is doing in the community. This is from one of the churches in the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference:

 Respond, providing a boost in Camden for toddlers through seniors, began with a push from congregants of Haddonfield United Methodist Church.

Respond, Inc., a non-profit community service agency that since 1966 has helped thousands of Camden residents from infants to seniors began with a pastoral chat and a bit of budget surplus at Haddonfield’s United Methodist Church.

While the agency has no religious ties, and has support from communities and civic groups throughout Camden County, many of the individuals who helped develop Respond’s programs were or now are members of the congregation.

Dr. Charles Sayre, who retired in 1990 as senior pastor at the church on Warwick Road, recently gave a rundown of some of Respond’s projects, the thread that ties it together.

Today the program has a budget of about $10 million, almost all from pubic funding sources, employs more than 300 people, and believes the assistance it provides for those struggling in today’s economy in Camden, generates $16 million in income.

The current core building of the Haddonfield United Methodist Church replaced a church burned down in 1955. The new building opened in 1958 and by 1966, a year after Sayre arrived, the mortgage was paid off.

“Many of our members had come from Camden and one of our congregants, Ed Schmauder, said it was time to pay back to Camden. Haddonfield grew at the expense of Camden. The business leaders moved out of that city to the suburbs and they brought their money with them,” he said.

Sayre said the initial plan was to partner with a Methodist Church in Camden. “We thought we could strengthen that church with our resources, with our people and with our money,” he said.

But the plan to help restore hope to those in the inner city was rebuffed. “They didn’t want us involved in the life of their people. They suggested we pay for a new roof and help with heating bills. But don’t push us around was their message,” Sayre said.

“That wasn’t what we wanted, what we believed was needed,” Sayre said.

From Respond’s first operation, a day care center at the State Street Methodist Church, the programming has grown in leaps and bounds.

  • The group now operates 13 day care centers, providing service to about 800 children daily
  • They purchased abandoned homes which were repaired and put up for sale. “At one time we had 100 houses. Often home ownership in poverty areas is not practical. So we rented. We still have 50 homes that we rent.”
  • They are presently the force behind the building of 40 units of affordable housing close to the grounds of the former state prison.
  • They also operate shelters for homeless men, counseling programs for adults and teens, programs for drug addicts, and a range of services for women and teens.
  • The biggest and newest project is job training in culinary arts and auto mechanics. The culinary arts program trains 180 teens and young adults designated “at risk” by the New Jersey Juvenile Justice Commission, the auto technician program trains 40 people each year, with vehicles provided by a local business.

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