The Psalm 46 fund, launched in early April to respond to immediate needs of African American and Latino families caused by job losses and other hardships caused by the coronavirus pandemic, has raised more than $290,000, organizers announced in an interview on Real Talk with Henry Sanders, Madison365’s video show and podcast.
Rev. Marcus Allen, senior pastor at Mt. Zion Baptist Church and president of the African American Council of Churches (AACC), joined Lighthouse Church pastor Marcio Sierra as guests on the show.
“This fund has been very beneficial for us and those in our community,” Allen said. “And (it’s) just been amazing to see how so many people and churches have been willing to give.”
Sierra said Lighthouse has used the funds to help pay rent or bills in the amount of about $300 to $500 for many families in need. Allen said AACC member churches have offered similar efforts but also hosted a “simultaneous day of giving” on May 12 to give a $50 grocery gift card to anyone who stopped by a member church, and pay $150 toward any bill.
“That method … is one way to move forward, just having different events around the city, and trying our best to not allow this money to sit in our bank account at all,” Allen said. “We want to get it out as fast as possible to the community that we may be able to meet some needs and also help people. I believe that’s why the donors gave it, for us to give it out.”
Sierra said the fund had also given $10,000 to the Latino Chamber of Commerce to support small businesses, and $5,000 to Little John’s restaurant in Oregon, Wisconsin, to support its free lunch program.
“We’re just helping as many families as we can. It’s really been a blessing,” Allen said.
Both Allen and Sierra said none of the money is covering administrative expenses. Sierra said staff from Lighthouse Christian School are helping administer financial assistance and pay people’s bills.
“It’s a lot of work to pay other people’s bills,” Allen said with a laugh. Still, he’s not using donated funds to pay anyone to do that work.
Allen noted that the church was well-positioned to take on this challenge.
“We didn’t just start serving the community once this pandemic hit. We were already on top of it,” he said. “Our food pantry at Mount Zion been around for over 20 years and during this pandemic, people have been blessing us with our food pantry. On that Tuesday, May 12th, we gave out all the cards and the money. When everything ran out, we were at our food pantry. We just started getting, we would, at least if we had partnered with our food pantry to give out food, we went bare. I’m talking about, everything in our pantry was gone. But thanks be to God, the next day we were able to restock the entire food pantry because we have funds available and it’s because members of the community are seeing the work that we’re doing that they’re willing to pour back into that.”
Sierra added that he feels churches provide for more than physical needs, as well.
“You know, sometimes, yeah, they need a sandwich, but at the same time they need (someone) to tell them that someone loves them,” Sierra said. “So more than just the physical need, which a lot of organizations, that’s what they do. They focus on the physical need. We also help the spiritual needs of a lot of these individuals.”
Allen and Sierra expressed gratitude for everyone who contributed to the fund, including the Dane County COVID19 Emergency Relief Fund, which gave each organization $10,000, and Selfless Ambition, which contributed another $20,000.
“Even though maybe Marcus and myself are the face of this fund, we couldn’t do it with all that, you know, it’s close to 500 individuals, churches, organizations that have given,” Sierra said.
“We see that as God providing,” Allen said. “Now other people may say, that’s just people being generous, but we see that as the hand of God on somebody’s heart, moving them to come and help us support the mission that God has placed on us.”
Both also spoke about hopes and plans to begin holding worship services again, and the hidden blessing in having to rethink worship.
“A lot of churches, we wanted to be old school. We didn’t want to be on Facebook. We didn’t want to be on YouTube. But now we are forced to be there and people are now able to really see the true essence of the church, of how we’re able to connect and how we’re able to touch and how we’re able to really change lives and impact our community on higher levels. We’re able to be that hub of hope where people can come to us and find hope,” Allen said.
“A lot of people talk about, hey, we’re closing the churches,” Sierra said. “The Church never closed. The building where the church meets closed.”