Fifty-Fourth Street Seventh-day Adventist Church in Los Angeles, California, United States, is transforming its community outreach into a multi-faceted program on its campus. Throughout its longstanding community service ministry, the church has provided food, clothing, shoes, and blankets for the South Los Angeles community. Most recently, the church added a new outreach component: a shower program called Showers of Blessings.
Since October 2019, the church has offered shower services every Tuesday through a partnership with Showers of Hope, a non-profit organization whose goal, according to its website, is “to offer our unhoused Angelenos a path out of homelessness and to bring our community together.”
“It is a blessing for those who live on the street and are able to come,” Adolphus Garnett, senior pastor of the church, said. “Unfortunately, these individuals are only able to shower two or three times a week. We’re happy that we’re able to provide.”
Margaret Carson, Fifty-Fourth Street community services director and her dedicated team of volunteers also provide the individuals and families who come for showers with meals, shoes, clothing, and hygiene kits. Sign-ups are not required in advance, and the popularity of the shower program has come from word-of-mouth promotion.
Gratitude for this service has been expressed in different ways. “Recently, one gentleman said, ‘I am so glad that this church is doing what they are doing for this community; I want to say thank you, but I want to give you a donation.’ I was reluctant to accept his donation,” Carson said, “but he insisted.”
Another man who came without shoes asked Carson if she had a pair. She didn’t that day but promised to have a pair in his size the following week. When she gave him the shoes the next week, he repeatedly thanked her and had a big smile on his face while trying them on before his shower. “Those are the things that are really rewarding,” Carson added.
In addition to supplying meals after the showers, Carson goes to the Los Angeles Region Food Bank every week to pick up food for distribution at the church's food pantry, serving anywhere from 400 to 1,000 families each month. People walk up, drive up, and bike up to receive food, and sometimes volunteers have even delivered food directly.
“It’s a job, but it’s rewarding,” Carson reflected. She has held the position of community services director since 1997. “This is what I like to do.”
Next, Fifty-Fourth Street is working to add oral health care to its services by partnering with UCLA School of Dentistry’s Oral Health Collaborative Consortium.
“We’re totally thankful for the opportunity to give back, and we’re grateful to our community partners that help us,” Garnett said. “They know that we’re an agency that’s doing right by our community.”