BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Next year, the harvest from gardens behind First Presbyterian Church of Waterville is expected to double – thanks to a donation from Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church.
As she toured the raised beds last month, Becky Johnson explained that volunteers grow green and yellow beans, jalapenos, green and orange sweet papers, red and yellow onions, beets and radishes to give to the Anthony Wayne Com-munity Food Ministry’s pantry.
“The pantry does an awesome job with canned goods but doesn’t get enough fresh produce,” Johnson said, explaining that 10 zucchinis aren’t enough for the 80 to 100 families served each week.
To meet that need, Johnson applied for a grant from Zion’s Mission Endowment Fund. The $7,275 grant awarded to First Presbyterian will allow the addition of beds and an automatic watering system, Johnson said.
This year, the Mission Endowment Fund provided $147,200 to 19 nonprofit organizations locally, regionally and worldwide, with a goal of “Bringing Mission to Life,” said Zion’s pastor, Rev. Steve Bauerle. The fund has awarded grants annually beginning in 2005 that total $1,995,800 to date.
The fund was started after a $3.6 million donation from Doug and Katie Graf, longtime members who devoted time and tithes to the church. The couple lived simply off their incomes from Waterville School, where Doug was the custodian and Katie the music teacher. When Katie’s mom passed away, she left a large sum to her only daughter, but by then, Katie was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s disease, so Doug decided to donate funds to the church.
Johnson, who attended what was then Waterville Elementary School, has fond memories of the Grafs.
“They were the sweetest and kindest people,” Johnson said. “This (endowment) is a beautiful reflection of them.”
A team of members, including Melissa Firestone, Mike Scheiding, Dave Matthews and Bauerle met to discuss what do to with the money and agreed to wait a year before making a decision. The team members contacted other churches to find out how they handled surprise donations of such magnitude.
“The ones that spent the money on themselves ended in disaster,” Bauerle said.
Sandy Mitchell, a consultant from Ashland, summed it up well, saying: “God blessed you with this gift. Is it safer to keep it for yourself or to give it away?”
The committee presented to the congregation a plan to give away 90 percent and keep 10 percent – a type of reverse tithe. The applicants are sponsored by Zion members and represent a broad range of regional, national and global organizations.
“One of the biblical principles of the endowment is Acts 1:8, where Jesus said, ‘Be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,’” Bauerle said. “If Jesus lived with us today on Earth, he would have said, ‘Be my witnesses in Waterville and the Anthony Wayne area, Toledo and Ohio, and to the ends of the earth.’”
This year’s recipients represent that goal and include:
• Sunshine Communities, $4,300 to assist with flooring upgrades.
• Wood County Soil and Water Conservation Dist-rict, $2,000 for AgVenture, an event to raise awareness of conservation in local agriculture.
• A student brought to the United States from Tanzania and hosted by Zion members received $12,000 to cover surgical, educational and other expenses.
• Little Blessings Veteran Outreach in Temperance, Mich., $11,000 for equine-assisted therapy for returning veterans suffering from trauma.
• Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity, $7,500 to help with the construction of two homes in the Junction neighborhood of Toledo.
• Uplyft Toledo, $7,000 for a leadership and mentoring program for inner-city youths.
• The Aurora Project, $6,700 to continue development of a garden and green space on an adjacent property.
• Vision Ministries, in the Old South End of Toledo, $6,200 for a meal program and personal needs items.
• Fremont Youth and Community Outreach, $4,500 to upgrade the kitchen for its food pantry that serves Northwest Ohio, Northeast Indiana and Southern Michigan.
• Toledo Ice Crew, an initiative of Sylvania Youth Hockey, $4,000 for a program focused on underserved area youths.
• Goodwill Industries of Southeast Michigan, $1,300 for ADA-compliant exercise equipment.
• Lutheran Social Ser-vices of Northwestern Ohio, $14,000 to provide counseling services to clients with limited financial resources.
• Filling Memorial Homes of Mercy in Napoleon, $4,200 to equip a virtual conference room where its residents can meet with their families without incurring the risks and costs of travel.
• The Northwestern Ohio Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, $4,300 to train synod leaders how to integrate the art of storytelling into mission development, preaching, fundraising and evangelism.
• Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University in Columbus received three grants: $10,500 to assist students with living expenses and fees for off-site clinical pastoral education; $8,000 for events and activities that will allow prospective students to discern whether they are called to vocational ministry; and $5,600 for a mentoring program focused on students entering seminary from diverse backgrounds.
• Missions International of America in Perrysburg received $13,500 for shower and sanitation facilities in a small rural community in Haiti, where it has been funding improvements and creating economic opportunities since 2005.
• The Lutheran Church of Christ of Togo (Africa) was granted $9,125 to purchase medicine and pay for surgeries needed by local residents.
• Sonset Solutions, which operates a Christian radio station in Kenya, will use a $4,200 award to purchase solar-powered radios so that refugees from South Sudan can hear the good news of hope.
During the Sunday, October 16 worship service, representatives and sponsors of these organizations will share information during a special program that includes speaker Rev. Mary Ann Siefke, the director of congregational engagement and advancement at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, which has received over $150,000 from Zion.
The service begins at 10:00 a.m. Zion is located at 22 N. Second St. in Waterville.