Shoreview UMC Joins San Mateo Neighborhood in Feeding Program

September 03, 2009

By Bruce Pettit
CA-NV Annual Conference Communications Commission

Shoreview, a neighborhood on San Francisco Bay in the city of San Mateo, wondered a few years ago whether the United Methodist Church was a good neighbor. Shoreview UMC's congregants are primarily Tongan and Samoan. Members had brought to the area some traditions from their home countries - such as outdoor pig-roastings, and unsupervised children at play - and neighbors were complaining about such things as odors, noise, and chaos.
 
But that's no more. The Rev. Saia Fa'asisila became Shoreview's pastor in 2005 and put an end to the culture clashes that offended. Now, in 2009, the neighborhood is a partner with Shoreview UMC in feeding the hungry in this time of economic downturn.
 
Last November, two months after the stock market crash, Rev. Fa'asisila felt the time was at hand to help the poor who surrounded the church. He asked Shoreview UMC members to sacrifice one meal a week to help those going hungry every day. If $6 was typically spent on a meal, he asked them to donate that $6 to a special church collection each Sunday. By Easter weekend they had collected $3,000 - enough to start purchasing food.
 
Just after Easter, Shoreview UMC started delivering, every Sunday, 70 to 90 ready-to-eat lunches to day laborers who assemble about a mile from the church - meals prepared under the supervision of Rev. Fa'asisila's wife, Soana. Now, on the second and fourth Saturday evenings of the month, Shoreview UMC opens its doors for dinners prepared by its members. On the first night, 112 people showed up to eat.
 
Some North Shoreview Neighborhood Association members said Fa'asisila's arrival was the best thing that had happened to the area in a long time, and they made him a board member at the beginning of 2009. (The association also features an ad for the meals on its website.) In turn, Fa'asisila asked the association to be a partner in the meals program, and the group agreed. Some association folks have even helped serve dinners.
 
Shoreview has developed a connection with Samaritan House, too. The two programs are coordinating dates to avoid duplication, thereby extending the reach of the overall services being provided to those in need.
 
And the Shoreview UMC fasting continues. Money that members would have spent on a meal goes into the special collection - amounting to $200 to $300 a week.