UPSHUR COOPERATIVE PARISH (UPH) is a ministry of Upshur Cooperative Parish and works with local churches, civic organizations, community agencies and West Virginia Wesleyan College. Located directly across from the campus of WVWC, Upshur Parish House is a mission project that grew out of the need from the 1985 flood.
Crosslines, Inc., our ecumenical assistance program, operates out of the UPH and offers help to neighbors through medical needs assistance, clothing assistance, rent, utilities, transportation vouchers, and layettes. UPH serves community meals twice a week that are free and open to everyone; operates a clothing closet which offers gently used clothing and household items; provides family resources including children and youth support; runs a community garden space for neighbors to grow food as well as produce fresh vegetable for the food pantry.
During the summer UPH operates a home repair program for families in Upshur County. We are an AmeriCorps site for Mid-Ohio Community Health and are developing ways to support our neighbor families with health information and programs. UPH is a busy place filled with love and laughter continually looking for ways to meet the needs of God’s children.
Upshur Parish House: Powered by Prayers and Volunteers
Rev. Alicia Randolph Rapking, Director, Upshur Parish House
Twenty-five years ago or so Sarah and Marvin Carr, and the churches of the Upshur Cooperative Parish had a vision for a place that would house Crosslines, Inc., a utility and food emergency assistance program for the low-income families of Upshur County. Having a central place for this ministry meant that Crosslines could operate at no cost and provide more help for our neighbors. Over the years the ministries of the Parish House have grown to include a thrift store, a home repair program, community gardens, Bible studies, mission trips, and much, much more. We work in partnership with all the United Methodist Churches throughout the Upshur Cooperative Parish and all the denominations of the county, and beyond.
We do what most mission projects do—assist in emergency situations for our neighbors. Although the total figures for 2016 will not be available until the end of the year I can report that Crosslines, Inc. will exceed the amount of help given last year. There will be somewhere close to 10,000 assists that will include over 3000 food packages and over 1700 clothing vouchers. We will spend over $65,000.00 in utility assistance, over $7,000.00 in housing assistance, over $13,000.00 in transient and homeless assistance and we will give out nearly 1,400-holiday meal packages. We will spend over $26,000.00 on food for the food pantry and the meat for the holiday packages and our total cash payout will be somewhere around $135,000.00. We continue to offer hot, well-cooked meals from volunteers and church and civic groups who believe that it is important for everyone to have food for sustenance and fellowship around tables. And on Christmas day, somewhere around 80 volunteers will help prepare and serve over 400 meals.
Our other programs are busy as well. Through the Clothes Closet, we provide very low cost or free clothing and necessities to the community. Through our Home Repair program, we make much-needed improvements for our neighbor families’ homes and provide an experience for work teams and neighbor families to work in partnership and forge relationships. We offer programs in community health through the leadership of our AmeriCorps member. On a daily basis, we work with other agencies in our community to provide help and assistance for the whole of Upshur County. We offer healthy cooking classes and basic budgeting classes.
Our staff and volunteers are amazing and dedicated. We have six part-time staff members who bring to us a great depth of passion. Between the Crosslines Help Desk, food pantry, and Clothes Closet we have around 25 regular volunteers. Our volunteer base expands during November and December as we distribute Holiday Meal packages and as we host the Christmas Day Dinner. Each Monday and Friday we offer meals, which are cooked by a number of church and civic groups, and individuals, which also add to our volunteer base. All in all we have over a hundred and thirty staff and volunteers who work with us throughout the year. I am grateful for their tireless efforts and for the amount of compassion that each staff member and volunteer brings to their work. Our staff and volunteers are a blessing to so many of our neighbors.
Among all the ministries that we provide, one of the most exciting programs in which we participate is the Community Partner program through the Center for Community Engagement at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Through the CCE, Service Scholars are placed in community sites to offer volunteer service. We have six students working in the food pantry and at the Clothes Closet. Over the course of their time with us they learn about everything that we do and they become proficient at their various jobs and in seeing needs, offering suggestions, and making things happen.
Each student that volunteers with us learns to know some of our neighbors by name and a little bit about their families. It is exciting to see the students engage with our families and see things from a different point of view. Our neighbor families change the lives of our service scholars in so many ways, helping these young people to understand the Gospel a little better. They see our neighbor families as children of God who have a lot to offer, even though their resources are scarce. It is exciting to hear the service scholars and our neighbors talking together and laughing together and sharing together a moment of life.
I am grateful to the WV Annual Conference for the prayer, volunteer, and financial support that we receive. I will also take this time to remind you all that you are invited to join us for our famous salad lunches during Annual Conference!