Churches United: Outreach organization finds new home
Members of church denominations in and around Bemidji don't always agree on details of their faith, but they do have in common the mission to reach out to people in need.
In 2002, representatives of several denominations joined to create Churches United to create a better organized method of helping low-income and homeless people.
Now consisting of 30 Bemidji area churches, the organization has outgrown its original quarters at St. Philip's Catholic Church and has moved into a new temporary home in donated office space in Mount Zion Church in Nymore.
"We're happy for our new home, but we're so thankful to St. Philip's where we got started," said Sarah Einerson, Churches United director.
The churches that make up Churches United donate at least $1 per member per year, but almost all the churches donate beyond the agreed-on base contribution. United Way and other service organizations also help with funding.
Einerson said she and organization volunteers are looking for a permanent home closer to downtown Bemidji and hope to make the next move in the spring.
Meanwhile, Churches United operates out of Mount Zion, 414 Lincoln Ave. S.E., with access through the Fifth Street Southeast entrance. Business hours are noon to 4 p.m.
Einerson said she moved to Bemidji five years ago to live with her father, Amos Einerson, who is now 92. She said the part-time position with Churches United, which she took 2½ years ago, gave her the opportunity to combine useful work, outreach into the community with time for volunteer work and recreation.
She said about 12 trained volunteers help with clients' needs, including emergency financial assistance, referrals to area agencies and advocacy. In 2008, Churches United served 1,595 men and women and 2,075 children.
"I love working with the clients," Einerson said, noting that some people make close connections with those helping them.
"I had two clients in the last two weeks bring me their brand-new babies," she said.
She said these people didn't need help at the time, but wanted to share their joy.
Churches United has partnered as a screening agency with Servants of Shelter since 2008 when the churches began opening their doors for winter night accommodations and meals.
In addition to the on-site volunteers, people also donate household goods and baby kits for Churches United to supply clients. This year, the organization also added the Churches United Household Depot to provide beds and other furniture.
"People are being really creative about it," Einerson said.