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Fascinating Fayetteville

Providing a helping hand

Area churches work to improve the community through outreach, programs


Fayetteville has many churches and faith-based organizations that reach out into the community to help others. Whether it is providing food to those in need or cleaning up blighted areas, stewards in Fayetteville are putting in the work to make major impacts in the community.

Haymount United Methodist Church, for example, holds a churchwide garage sale three times a year to support its mission projects. It has raised more than $250,000 over the last several years. Its global-wide missions include taking medical and construction teams each year to Montero, Bolivia; contributing to the construction of a handicapped-accessible bathroom along with the purchase of smart TVs for a Methodist school in El Salvador; and supplying personal protective equipment for medical staff in Liberia.

When Wes Jones, one of the leaders in mission work at the church and a local gastroenterologist, first heard about the mission opportunities in Bolivia, he says that he “felt a hundred bolts of electricity” and knew that God was calling him to be a part of it. He made his first trip to Bolivia in 1987 and took his first team from the church in 1993.

“You don’t realize how huge some of the things we do there is for some even when it seems so small to us,” says Jones, who becomes emotional talking about the church’s mission work and his 24 trips to Bolivia. “It’s transformational to the people there.”

Locally, the sales support construction costs for Habitat for Humanity houses and the thrift store at the Myrover Reese Fellowship home. Leftover books are donated to the Cumberland County Public Library. More than 70 church and community volunteers donate their time at the sales.

Whether the missions are in other countries or in our backyard, members of the faith community are striving to make a difference. Here are some others:

Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church
614 Oakridge Ave., 910-484-2010, Faygreekchurch.com

Most people know the large Greek church through its annual Greek Festival and the World’s Largest Spaghetti dinner. The Greek Festival, held every September, has live music, dancing, vendors and, of course, delicious Greek food. This past year was scaled back, leaving off the full menu and live music for a “Greek Grab n’ Go.” But organizers were glad to bring the event back after not being able to host it in 2020.

The World’s Largest Spaghetti dinner, held since 1958, features more than 4,000 pounds of dry spaghetti, 900 gallons of sauce and over 100 volunteers along with tables of Greek pastries. If food is the way to the heart, the community feels the love from this church annually. All of the church fundraisers benefit local charities and organizations such as the Red Cross, the Second Harvest Food Bank, the Autism Society and the Vision Resource Center.

This year, the church is adding a Greek cuisine and comedy night. It will include a five-course dinner prepared by Chef Peter Minaki and entertainment by Greek-American comedian Basile on May 1 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Courses will be paired with five Greek wines. Miniaki has authored several cookbooks, including “Everything Mediterranean,’’ and is considered one of Canada’s premier Greek food and wine experts. Seats are $100 per person and tables can be reserved until April 20. A girls’ night cooking demo will take place April 28 with Minaki. The cost is $40 per person, and seating is limited. To make a reservation, call 801-915-0098.
Most church members also belong to AHEPA, a Hellenic nonprofit organization that hosts events like the annual Athena Night at the church to raise money for college scholarships.

First Presbyterian Church
102 Ann St., 910-483-0121, Firstprez.com

First Presbyterian Church supports the community through several initiatives. Its “Serve and Share” campaign provides opportunities for church members to support local mission partners, including Fayetteville Urban Ministry, Operation Inasmuch, Connections of Cumberland County, the Care Clinic, Better Health, Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity and the B Street Coalition.

Outside the community, members have traveled to Mexico to help build churches and schools and to Haiti to provide medical assistance. It also helps with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance relief efforts worldwide.

Since 2010, the church has packaged more than 830,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger with a goal to surpass a million. Around 60 to 70 members measure ingredients to vacuum seal meals for those in need. The Rise Against Hunger event starts the annual Mission Conference week at the church with local speakers and fundraisers.

The Presbyterian Woman adopt a local agency each month to collect items for, including Second Harvest Food Bank and Operation Blessing. The children’s ministry is also involved in initiatives that include collecting new and gently used coats for the winter coat drive, hosting backpack buddies for students at Walker Spivey Elementary School, collecting cleaning supplies and hygiene kits for Operation Inasmuch and Connections of Cumberland County and raising money to send Bibles written in Haitian Creole to Haiti.

Epicenter Church
2512 Fort Bragg Road, 910-485-8855, Yourepicenter.com

Epicenter Church has served those in need with dinners, adopted 250 children in the county foster care system at Christmas and handed out gift cards to strangers on the streets in Fayetteville.

The church started a separate nonprofit called Ways 2 Love Fayetteville in 2013 and has a goal of logging 20,000 volunteer hours throughout the year.

Prior to the pandemic, the church held Hop in the Park, an event at Festival Park downtown with a skydiving Easter Bunny and where thousands of children searched for eggs and candy. The focus is streamlining this year, with the church concentrating on smaller events that it hopes can impact the community in a large way.

This past Thanksgiving, Epicenter collected more than 16,000 pounds of food with a Bumper Crop initiative and served 5,000 meals with its Operation Compassion Thanksgiving dinner. Members host Hope dinners at the church each month, serving those in need. It also has a food bank that is open twice a week. Church members also serve dinner to first responders several times a year, calling on staff at the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center emergency room, fire stations and police departments.

It also works with the school system. It has provided goodie bags for teachers and staff and gift cards that were raffled at schools.

On one weekend alone, church members handed out $3,000 acts of kindness gift cards to strangers, planted 50 azaleas at J.W. Coon Elementary School and painted Hurley pots downtown.

Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
5422 Raeford Road, Fayetteville, 468 Hobson Road, Raeford, 910-424-2344, Lewischapel.org

Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church, one of the largest African-American churches in the area, is working with the youngest generations for a long-term impact. The church hosts a free afterschool and tutoring program at its Raeford Road location. They try to open the program up to everyone who needs it or until they hit the maximum capacity at the church.
The church also hosts a robust mentorship program at its Raeford location called “Lean on Me,” which is designed to help children who might be considered more rambunctious to focus and help them be the best they can be. The program is a mix of students who have good grades and those who are academically challenged. Some may have behavioral issues as well. The students work together on projects and help teachers. The church hosts the program at two schools but hopes to expand it to others as it sees the results of students improving academically and behaviorally.

The church also has an ongoing mission to help those in Cumberland or Hoke counties who need shelter and food, including women escaping abusive relationships, by partnering with area nonprofits and hosting food distribution trucks.

Simon Temple AME Zion Church
5760 Yadkin Road, 910-867-1182, Simontemple.com

Simon Temple AME Zion Church, with a membership of more than 3,000, works to feed the homeless every Saturday in a few locations in Fayetteville, including under the Person Street bridge where the homeless have formed a tent city.

Its Good Samaritan ministry begins on Friday night with prep work and continues at 4 a.m. on Saturdays when members begin cooking for their hot meal deliveries. The church vans leave the church around 9 a.m. to feed those underserved in the area. It takes around 25 members every weekend to complete the service, which combines feeding with witnessing and prayer.

Simon Temple also has delivered Meals on Wheels for more than 30 years to seniors and those housebound. Members deliver a breakfast-type meal Monday through Friday. They also provided over 300 meals at three sites at Thanksgiving and Christmas through an outreach ministry.

Church members have also received training to go into prison to help with a Teaching all Nations ministry. The prison ministry begins with training through the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office. Those ministers can then visit the prison to help inmates with resources that will help them transition back into society when they are released. The program has not been as active since COVID -19 restrictions were put in place.

A food bank and clothing closet operate behind the church on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The church works with donations and the Second Harvest Food Bank for the program.

Village Baptist Church
906 S. McPherson Church Road, 910-678-7178, Thevillagebc.church

Village Baptist Church supports the community through several initiatives. Its Handy Man Ministry helps with home repairs or projects for seniors, widows and people with personal handicaps. A van ministry shuttles soldiers from the barracks on Fort Bragg to the Reilly Road campus for dinner and worship. The church also welcomes soldiers returning to Fort Bragg after deployments.

Through the Ben Martin Elementary School partnership, church members can help with test proctoring, the backpack buddies program to supply children with food to get through the weekend, teacher appreciation luncheons, school supply collections, a giving tree at Christmas for low-income families and other things the school might need.
There are other churchwide initiatives for disaster relief and food distribution.

The church also has “life groups’’ outside the overall church initiatives that allow smaller sections of the membership to concentrate on core areas. Those groups work with the Odum Children’s Home in Pembroke, serve breakfast at Operation Inasmuch, supply new moms with baby shower gifts at the Agape Pregnancy Center, collect goodies for food baskets donated to the Beatitude House in Spring Lake and bring food with handwritten notes for the City Bus Driver ministry. They also sponsor international students who are unable to travel home and the students at Garber Hall at Methodist University, providing care packages, holiday meals, snacks and energy drinks during finals.

Churches, outreach, Fayetteville