Serving others – in our own backyard and around the world – has been at the heart of West Side’s ministry since the church was founded in 1912. Here are some ways, big and small, that you can use your gifts to “give back.” And remember, you don’t need to be a member to get involved!
Almost every Friday throughout the year (and many weekends too), West Siders gather in the parking lot and carpool to Eva’s Village in Paterson to serve a hot, nutritious lunch to the homeless and working poor. The kitchen is open 365 days a year and prepares 1,300 meals a day.
Four times a year, West Side partners with Family Promise of Bergen County to host homeless working families for a week-long stay in our Youth Barn, providing a safe, comfortable place to sleep and spend time, three meals a day, companionship and support. Volunteers stay overnight, prepare and serve dinner, provide grab-and-go breakfast items, and help with setup and cleanup. Click the link above if you would like to volunteer for the October 26-November 3 or December 8 -15 stay.
Habitat for Humanity
In partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Bergen County, West Siders work with members of First Presbyterian Church of Ridgewood to build/renovate homes for hard-working families in the county. No experience or special skills are necessary! Interested in lending a hammer or a paint brush?
For more than two decades, West Side members have been celebrating Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas with the men and women at the Drug Rehabilitation Center at the Bergen County Jail in Hackensack. The Market Basket delivers a wonderful meal, and we provide dessert, beverages, companionship and conversation. This year, we will share a Thanksgiving meal on November 23 and a Christmas meal on December 21.
Collection of nonperishable food for the Center for Food Action in Mahwah and First Presbyterian Church in Passaic takes place year-round. Items most needed by our food pantry partners include: peanut butter and jelly; macaroni and cheese; canned meat, tuna and beans; white and brown rice; hearty and low-sodium soups; canned fruit and vegetables; 100 percent juice; low-sugar cereals; diapers in sizes 2, 3 and 4; infant formula and baby food; Ensure/nutritional drinks; and dental hygiene supplies. Donations can be placed in the wooden bins in the entryway of the church any time the building is open. Volunteers are also needed to deliver the donations to our food pantry partners.
Bringing a meal to someone in need – perhaps a member who just got out of the hospital or is grieving the recent loss of a loved one – is a wonderful way to connect and serve at West Side. Laura Impomeni maintains a list of volunteers at www.TakeThemAMeal.com, an online tool that simplifies the meal coordination process.
New City Kids
In Paterson, where fewer than 5 percent of high school seniors are ready for college, New City Kids is breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. The program empowers youth to be leaders in their communities and to grow through music and the arts, after-school academic assistance, mentorship, spiritual development and an intense college-bound process that has resulted in a 90 percent college graduation rate. To find out about volunteer opportunities with New City Kids, click here.
New York City Relief
Eight times a week, two converted school buses travel to Harlem, the South Bronx, Paterson and Newark, where staff and volunteers set up tables, chairs and tents on the sidewalk for their homeless guests. They serve homemade soup and fresh-baked bread, hand out new socks and toiletry kits, and offer prayers and life-changing connections to food, shelter, clothing, detox, job training and medical care. The result? Lives are transformed.
This mission of Oasis, located in Paterson, is to break the cycle of poverty by feeding, clothing, educating and empowering women and children in need. Here, women can learn computer skills, take an English as a Second Language class, prepare for the citizenship exam, enroll in a high school equivalency test program and more. Supervised childcare is provided for children up to age 5 to ensure that adult students can make a commitment to their education. To find out about volunteer opportunities at Oasis, contact Signe Howard.
Refugee Assistance for Families Team (RAFT)
Helping refugees start new lives - and thrive - in the United States is the focus of RAFT, which was conceived in the fall of 2015 in response to the migrant crisis. Since then, the group has set up six apartments for refugee families from Syria, Eritrea and Afghanistan with the help of members and friends of West Side. Now RAFT is helping several of the families adjust to life in America.
Youth Self Development
For the past 20 years, Youth Self Development has been providing SAT preparation mentoring and career guidance services to college-bound high school students in Paterson. Every week, West Siders meet in the church parking lot and travel together to Eastside and JFK High Schools, where they tutor students in math and English. No teaching experience is necessary!
Since 2013, West Siders have been traveling to Haiti to work and serve at Pwoje Espwa (Creole for “Project Hope”), an orphanage that sprang to life in 1998 with one abandoned building that housed 15 homeless children. Today, Pwoje Espwa cares for nearly 350 children, educates more than 1,600 and serves about 2,000 meals a day. On our mission trips, West Side has provided medical, vision and dental care to hundreds of Espwa’s children and neighbors, funded and installed a new generator for the entire 125-acre campus, and installed solar street lights, pumps, plumbing and electric lines. Equally as important is connecting with the wonderful children through activities such as arts and crafts, sports and games, dance and baking.
West Side kids learn to serve at a young age – whether it’s contributing to a Thanksgiving food drive or purchasing a Christmas gift for a child in need or spending a week repairing homes for families living below the poverty line in rural Virginia. Here are some of the ways your children can get involved in helping their neighbors.
First Presbyterian Church of Passaic
Several times a year, our youth gather in the West Side kitchen on a Friday evening to cook a meal, which they then deliver and serve on Saturday to approximately 120 people at First Pres who are struggling with food insecurity.
Thanksgiving "Bags of Love"
In November, as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we help those who are less fortunate have a wonderful holiday meal too by assembling “Bags of Love” filled with the fixings for a complete family dinner. Donations benefit the Center for Food Action in Mahwah and First Presbyterian Church of Passaic.
Appalachia Service Project
Each summer, high school youth spend a week repairing homes for low-income families in Central Appalachia, where nearly 40 percent of children live below the poverty line. They put up drywall, spackle, paint, install flooring and much more to make homes warmer, safer and dryer for families in need.