‘Operation Inasmuch….doin’ good in the hood…’

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“Doin’ good in ‘da hood’” and “making an impact through contact” may sound like clichés, but for the Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church, it is a time of reaching out to a community through a day of service and love.  Within a city where many people are struggling to survive in a declining economy, hope is encouraged through “Operation Inasmuch.”

At the urban church, Rev. Dr. Darryl T. Canady is not only talking the talk, but he is walking the walk. “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” is a guiding force in his ministry, and the needs of the community remain heavy upon his heart.

In 2010, when parishioner Sonja McLaughlin brought her idea of  “Operation Inasmuch” to the pastor of the East Liberty church, it was a piece of the puzzle that fit into his ‘Community of Hope’ vision.

This year, approximately 400 parishioners showed up, armed with prayer, gifts and determination, to offer a glimmer of hope to the eastern Pittsburgh neighborhood.   In doing so, members of “The Street” went out into the street, making contacts that left a lasting impact on others.  The hearts of the residents of the city were touched through the many acts of kindness expressed throughout the day.

The morning began with spirited song and praise, confirmation that God was indeed sending His people on a mission.

A flurry of activity occurred inside the open doors of the established Baptist church, as well as outside the surrounding perimeter, as teams completed blankets and fruit baskets for the elderly, cleaned and polished the sanctuary from top to bottom and prepared lunch for the volunteers.

A massive clean-up occurred as a team picked up trash littering nearby sidewalks, streets and roads leading to the corner of Rodman and Collins.  Although a prayer team was stationed on the side of the church, ministry members walked throughout the community, touching the lives of many as they voluntarily prayed for the families, residents and homes.   Health stations, including HIV testing, were available to community members, a conscious effort of awareness and prevention within the African-American community.

Current economics find many faced with the difficult decision of making a choice between a trip to the laundromat or the supermarket. Customers at local laundromats were surprised by monetary gifts to assist with their weekly laundry.  Pittsburgh resident Anita Bryant stated she felt the gesture was “really nice,” and she “never saw anybody do anything like this.”  As they departed, one of the Rodman volunteers noticed a  lady struggling with a heavy cart loaded with food she had just received from the local food bank, located a few blocks away.  Volunteerism went beyond the call of duty as he willingly loaded his car with her grocery cart and gave her a ride home.

It was hard work for the large group of Rodman volunteers who assisted local food banks.  The “Produce to People Program,” through the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, served 521 families and distributed 24,000 pounds of food at the Holy Rosary Church on that busy Saturday morning.

Because of government cut-backs that are impacting food banks across the country, Rodman member Myrna Clarke, a regular volunteer, collected paper plates signed by the recipients.  On behalf of the Paper Plate Campaign, Clarke will send the signed plates to Pennsylvania State Senator Pat Toomey to continue the fight to aid families in need.

Rodman, a regular participant in the monthly food bank volunteerism program, is led by Valerie Wimms.   Jake Johnson, Special Distribution & Inventory Coordinator of the Pittsburgh-based food bank, expressed appreciation for the consistent assistance of the church, and said “We really like to see the communities we are serving serve themselves.”

Along with a word of prayer, a variety of gift baskets containing Bibles, DVDs and necessary toiletries were presented to local veterans at the Shepherd’s Heart Veterans Home, located in the Hill District.

Residents of local nursing homes were presented with blankets made by the loving hands of the ladies of Rodman. The Vincentian DeMarillac Nursing Home was one of the few nursing homes where members of Operation Inasmuch spent precious time.  Rodmanite Dee Seymour took a group to visit the home where her mother has lived for the past 10 years.  A daily volunteer, Dee and her committee entertained the sick and elderly with prayer, poetry and song.   Assistant Activities Director Margaret Ellstrom stated, “it is wonderful that the residents are in tuned and open to the many different religions that offer comfort,” and she was extremely appreciative of the visit.

Following an afternoon of prayer, sharing and giving, the day’s activities culminated in the same manner it began…with praise and prayer.  It was a special sense of humility and admiration that was added to the mix.  Because Rodman took the time to “do good in ‘da hood,” they “made an impact through contact” by reaching out and touching those who exist outside the walls of the church…a piece of the puzzle that fits within the community.

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