hands in the air volunteering with work 'volunteer' in the background

Community Service at Church in the Forest

If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God.

Matthew 5: 15-16

Many of our members serve local, national and international organizations with hands-on involvement, board leadership and financial support. Rather than have an “in-house” service/mission committee, thus, we’ve chosen to support our members’ endeavors.

Each month, in our Lights From the Forest feature, we lift up a member whose service organization and efforts will inspire you. Please be in touch with our featured members or Ken Feske to find out more about their area of service, and join them!

Church in the Forest is committed to being a Light in the Forest for homeless women, beginning in November 2020!

Community Human Services and Gathering for Women are about to open the first-ever shelter for homeless women and families with children on the Monterey Peninsula. The shelter is called Casa de Noche Buena.

This summer some of our own church members became involved in this exciting collaboration. In October they brought a proposal to our church board, asking our church to engage with Casa as volunteers, individual supporters, or even more – would our church itself become a significant financial supporter?

Our church board said, “Yes,” to all three dimensions.

Why are we committing our church to Casa? Homelessness in Monterey County has become a humanitarian crisis. The most recent Monterey County homeless census identified 2,422 homeless people in Monterey County, of which 35% were female and 25% were families. Yet, this startling number is probably an undercount by half or more, according to experts.

Casa de Noche Buena is one solution. Located in Seaside, Casa will provide guests with a warm, safe place to stay (as long as 90 days) while receiving intensive case management and supportive services, including linkages to employment and housing and mental health and substance abuse services based upon their individual needs.

The shelter will feature 10 bedrooms, a laundry room, a kitchen, a multi-purpose dining room and a lounge, and accommodate between 28 and 36 people depending upon the ages of the children.

How will Church in the Forest help?

  1. The church board voted to give $10,000 to underwrite the cost of build-out and furnishing a double resident room. Our church name will be displayed near “our” room, recognizing our donation.
  2. Individual members and church small groups are encouraged to “shower” Casa with homewares, purchased through Amazon, where Casa has established a registry of needed items. (Please open the tab How To Help)
  3. In the future there will be volunteer opportunities to serve Casa’s families, such as reading to children, tutoring all ages, mentoring women, leading art and craft activities, etc. We’ll keep you informed of those volunteer opportunities.
We’re excited to support Casa de Noche Buena.  Right now, there are two ways.
  • We're organizing a smallgroup/team to discern and respond to Casa's changing needs as they grow and develop.  Would you like to join?
  • Just like any family, they have an ever-shifting shopping list.  Needed now: hand warmers; toothbrushes/paste; gloves; umbrellas; larger sized yoga/stretch pants; wipes; individually wrapped Q tips and feminine hygiene products.
To find out more about a service team, or to drop off donations, please contact Carle Mowel  (cmowell@comcast.net).   If you would prefer to make a donation by check, please address it to: Gathering for Women, 147 Eldorado Street, Monterey, CA 93940 attn: Casa

A Lasting Legacy: Peter Henning
April 17, 1947 - June 14, 2020

Peter Henning, with his wife Jackie, was a Meals on Wheels driver from 2011 to 2020. Delivering hot meals was a great service, but having a friendly face arrive at home-bound people’s homes was also very important. For many clients, the only people they would see daily are Meals on Wheels drivers -- who check on their clients as part of their delivery service. Being a driver was a great experience for the Hennings; it taught them about getting older, but, as well, they got to have lots of laughs during their clients' warm receptions. Meals On Wheels is a nationally known service, but each Meals on Wheels program is autonomous. The Meals on Wheels program here is located at the Sally Griffin Center in Pacific Grove, a particularly robust organization (click to read more about the Center and how to get involved).

Marilynn Gustafson

Marilynn Gustafson reminds us that, in the Parable of the Lost Son, Jesus teaches us we need to stand ready to embrace our children, no matter the past. Sun Street Centers provides comprehensive and highly effective services for education, prevention and recovery of alcohol addiction and drug abuse. It is a program of new beginnings. Marilynn became involved with the organization through their affordable living program for homeless families with children – Pueblo Del Mar in Marina. Most of these residents of Pueblo del Mar are women; all have successfully completed a drug treatment program; all need help to regain custody of their children and all need a safe place to live. How can one get involved? These families move into empty apartments. They need towels, linens, kitchen items and bathroom products. Please contact Sun Street Centers, or reach Marilynn through our church office.

Victoria Carns

Church in the Forest member Victoria Carns has been a long-time and effective volunteer for the Blind & Visually Impaired Center of Monterey County, Inc. Located in Pacific Grove, this nonprofit agency provides a personal and experthand for individuals with visual handicaps. Some of our members are grateful beneficiaries of this organization (sometimes called, “Lighthouse Services).   Currently Lighthouse is seeking volunteers to staff the front desk. They also seek experienced community leaders to serve on their board and volunteer on these committees:
  • Finance
  • Programs and Policy
  • Fund Development
    • Events
    • Legacy Giving
    • Marketing & PR
    • Fundraising
Find Lighthouse at 225 Laurel Avenue, Pacific Grove Phone: (831) 649-3505

Lettie Bennett

Lettie Bennett is passionate about the joy of reading and literacy. As a past professional librarian and current community volunteer, reading is Lettie’s life-time calling. Lettie, as our February Light from the Forest, highlighted the local Read to Me Project, an early literacy program that prepares young children to enter kindergarten with the knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension skills that will help them succeed in school. Today the Read to Me Project is in 106 local classrooms and is working with 1,354 4th-6th graders. Its program begins each fall as school starts, and works with students throughout the school year, coaching them on how to become their younger siblings’ guides for reading and enjoying books. To find out more, please contact Lettie through our church office.  

Ken White

Ken White is an agent of goodness, encouragement and compassion. He is involved in nearly a dozen efforts — from serving the homeless through The Salvation Army, to providing free Monterey Pop Symphony concerts to young people. “I like to see people progress,” he shares. Ken’s foundation? “I had the greatest Christ-like parents who never went to church. At age 16 I went to a Federated Church, gave my life to Christ. . .Christ is my Savior, and that is all that matters to me. Bible Studies are alright but are self-enriching. I prefer being involved with people, hearing their stories and helping those who need help.” The Salvation Army has been a commitment for thirty years of Ken’s life. Ken is also devoted to the transformative power of music-making for underserved children, supporting the Monterey Pops Symphony’s choir at King Elementary School in Seaside. This choir often performs with the symphony. Ken cannot think of a life without the joy of helping others. “Life has to be joyful, fulfilling.” He patterns his life after the encouragement of Acts 20:35–“I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” For more information, connect with Ken on Sundays, or email Ken Feske

Bob Janzen

Bob Janzen is deeply involved with Nancy’s Project (http://www.nancysproject.org/ ) a charitable organization that has 70 volunteers and no paid staff. Nancy’s Project distributes food, clothing and other necessities to farm worker families in the Salinas Valley. Much of Bob’s work includes picking up donated food from grocery stores and taking it for distribution to families in churches in Salinas and Greenfield. Would you like to find out more? Contact Bob at: raejanzen@sbcglobal.net