LANCASTER — The upcoming annual Choose Wellness health fair is just one way the College Church of Seventh-day Adventists congregants interact with and serve the greater community.
The event on Sunday Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Central Park in Clinton will feature information on vegan and vegetarian nutrition, emotional well-being, lifestyle and exercise, and local artists and health-centric vendors including make your own smoothie.
There will also be blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI) screenings, a farmers market area with fresh produce from regional farmers, raffle prizes such as gift certificates and baskets from local businesses, and a children’s area with a bouncy house, face painting, arts and crafts, and a teddy bear vet clinic.
Longtime church member and Sterling resident Kari Radford is organizing the health fair she first launched in 2017 as a way to help spread the word about healthy living, one of the tenants of the Seventh-day Adventist church. She has been involved with the Lancaster church’s women’s ministries for a long time and for the past decade the leader of the dedicated group that quietly goes about doing what they believe is God’s work in the community.
“I enjoy being part of this ministry and seeing the faces of the people we have reached out to,” Radford said. “It feels very good to be able to brighten the lives of those around us and make a difference in the world, following the example of Jesus.”
Choose Wellness is one example of a long list of community outreach efforts the church is involved with. Many involved in the Women’s Ministries and other church members donate their time and talents to ‘Adopt a Family’ at Christmastime, assist with meals for homeless every month through WHEAT Community Connections in Clinton, provide meals on a regular basis to North Star Family Services homeless shelter in Leominster, and donate clothes, snacks, and lunch bags to Clinton Elementary School students.
In addition, they do monthly ministry at Sterling Village Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and an annual large-scale Thanksgiving basket food drive that results in boxes filled with food delivered to hundreds of families every November.
Radford said the Women’s Ministries team is integral in ensuring the success of these multifaceted outreach efforts.
“Many women pitch in with the various activities,” she said. “We have focused on outreach programs for our own members as well as our community.”
In the fall, they send care packages to their own first-year college students who are away from home for the first time.
“We pack up snacks, school supplies, and other miscellaneous items with a letter that lets them know they are in our thoughts and prayers,” Radford shared.
Last summer they joined forces with Glō Mom Initiative and organized and hosted a community baby shower at Central Park in Clinton where they provided baby clothes and essentials, information on available resources, and more to expecting and new moms. A certified car seat safety expert was on site and gave out some new infant car seats.
This December will be the fourth year in a row the women’s ministries team is doing ‘Adopt a Family’ for Christmas. They typically endow a family upwards of $1,500 to $2,000 worth of items they need, such as gift cards for gas and groceries, as well as clothing for the whole family and toys for the kids. The first year they helped a family with then 2-year-old twins where one of the parents had cancer and was unable to work.
“We gave presents to the kids and gift certificates for gas, groceries, and stores,” Radford said. “We had a meal together when we brought them the gifts. They were so appreciative.”
The second year they adopted Inigo Vega and his Leominster family. The 10-year-old passed away in May of this year after a courageous 20-month battle with cancer and a celebration of his life was recently held at the church.
“Both parents quit their jobs to support their only child,” Radford said of their fellow College Church members that they were happy to help in their time of need.
Last year they focused their efforts on a family staying at North Star Family Services after finding out about them following the Glō Mom baby shower. The family had two small children and another on the way. When the family was able to move out of the shelter, Radford said they donated what they had collected including gift certificates to Market Basket, Target, and Walmart back to North Star.
“It was a success story for the shelter.” Radford said related to the family getting placed in housing, adding that when she delivered the gift certificates to the staff at North Star they were “very appreciative.”
The College Church has been providing meals for North Star families one week each quarter for nearly two years now. Church families sign up for a day of the week and bring the food directly to the shelter.
North Star President and CEO Jon Hogue said the Adventist church is one of 18 local organizations, businesses, and churches who are on a regular rotation to provide meals for a week every three months.
“It is the community helping the neediest of families, the whole community coming together to own that,” Hogue said of their loyal patrons. “Nobody deserves to be traumatized or sleep in an abandoned building, nobody deserves that. What these groups are saying is that this is not acceptable and by cooking they are ensuring that nobody goes hungry.”
Radford said the congregation “is very supportive of our efforts” and that church members regularly contribute monetary donations which enables them to continue “these various outreach programs.”
“We are very appreciative of this help and support,” she said. “Our church has a mission to reach out to others and show the community that we care.”