ERMA- It’s no secret Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene will lend a helping hand to someone down on their luck.
The church is located in a county and township with a seasonal economy where life is rarely easy for local folks trying to eke out a living.
For those who find their kitchen cabinets empty of food or have need of a warm coat, the church will assist with a smile. Maybe that’s the reason Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene is celebrating its 100th anniversary Nov. 25.
On the day before Thanksgiving, food was coming into the church and going out. The Key Club from Lower Cape May Regional High School pulled in with a bus load of canned goods and other non-perishable items.
Volunteers from Lower Township Rescue Squad arrived with cartons of fresh fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile, folks in need were lining up and receiving bags of groceries.
Following Hurricane Sandy, the church expanded its food pantry to serve storm victims, in particular, those staying in motels in Wildwood from central and northern New Jersey who lost their housing, according to Pastor Charles Gates.
The first Sunday after the storm, the church invited those residing in motels to come to the building for a hot meal.
“FEMA was kind enough to bus them in,” said Gates.
The output of the church’s food pantry has been expanded both to serve greater need in our county and storm victims, he said. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as many as 60 persons will come to the church to receive free food.
The church gave away over 100 Thanksgiving baskets complete with turkey and “all the fixings,” said Gates.
The church maintains a “clothes closet” known as the Sandbox as a twofold ministry. Some items are sold to raise money to pay electric bills and fuel costs for those in need. Gates said funds were used to purchase bus tickets for the displaced staying in motels in Wildwood, so they could return to their hometown for Thanksgiving.
“We’ll do any compassionate care financing through the profit that is made by the clothes distribution,” said Gates. “If somebody comes to us from a family in need, they pay nothing and they can take whatever they want of the clothing that is there.”
Manager Heather Marsden said clothing donations would be happily accepted.
Gates is predicting a bad winter, not weather-wise, but economically for local residents.
He said while outsiders see Cape May as an affluent vacation destination, year round residents make most of their income in three months of the summer.
“If they haven’t done well or haven’t been able to connect very well, by the time we get to Christmas and past Christmas, things get pretty rough,” said Gates.
He said the church’s mission department undertakes local projects such as building a ramp for a handicapped person or cleaning the home of sick or disabled person.
Gates said the church has endeavored to be a good neighbor.
“We’re a mission minded church and because of that it’s caused us to try and find practical ways of helping in the community,” he said. “It’s the compassionate end or the practical end of a theology that says ‘Who’s my neighbor?’”
The outreach is foundational to who Nazarenes have been in this community for 100 years, said Gates.
“I don’t think people realize that there is a bit of a gap growing between the middle class and the poor,” he said.
Gates noted his mother and father survived with just his father working and his mother doing part time work. He said the church sees families coming through their door every day that can barely afford childcare.
The husband and wife both must work to pay the bills and their profit margin by the end of the day is small.
“The poverty cycle is changing,” said Gates.
While the public may say more entitlement programs are available to the poor, a number of people do not fit the criteria, he said.
A percentage of people who have lost their jobs have stopped looking for employment because they have had no success finding work with their qualifications, said Gates. He said a number of the unemployed are not counted in national statistics.
“We meet people like that,” said Gates. “They don’t come begging. They just say ‘What do we do?’”
While it may not seem like much to provide food to those persons, it saves them that amount of money to pay their electric bill or something else, he said.
On the day Hurricane Sandy arrived, church staff and volunteers arrived at 9 a.m. Church of the Nazarene International headquarters through its district representative was preparing to send in generators, pumps and emergency supplies.
“We even had a mobile hospital standing by in West Chester ready to come into Cape May if necessary because all the predictions were we were going to get hit hard, so everything was staged and ready to go,” said Gates.
Church volunteers went into Reed’s Beach, an area where a number of homes were destroyed, right after the storm. He said few are hearing about Reed’s Beach, Port Norris, Gandy’s Beach and Fortescue, which was nearly destroyed by the hurricane.
Seashore Community Church of the Nazarene started 100 years ago with 13 persons gathering in a home to hold a worship service and Sunday School, said Gates. A small church was built on Church Street.
A larger building, still in existence, was constructed at Route 9 and Myrtle. In 1968, the church’s current building was built.
The church operates a nursery school serving 56 families and more than 80 children.
“They come from all churches, all backgrounds,” said Gates.
The school is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to help working families. Gates said the nursery school is considered to be a ministry of the church.