The Golden Cross Foundation, awarded more than $100,000 to churches and organizations throughout the conference in 2019. Grant money was used to start an iPad pilot project for older adults, retrofit churches with ramps and lifts, broaden an older adult choir’s outreach to the surrounding community, provide financial assistance for feeding ministries and older adult ministry programs, and help launch an intergenerational home sharing program.
Officially founded in 2013, the Golden Cross Foundation (GCF) provides funding assistance for new and ongoing ministries and services with older adults in the Tennessee Conference and provides expertise and strategic planning to the conference for the expansion of innovative and effective ministries with older adults.
“You might say the foundation exists to give money away,” said GCF Executive Director Kent McNish. “Each year members of the GCF board review and approve grant requests from UM churches and organizations throughout the Tennessee Conference of The United Methodist Church.”
In 2019, 18 grants were awarded ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. Several churches receiving grant money applied it toward feeding ministries. Members at Leeville United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, expanded their SALT (Serving at the Lord’s Table) food pantry so they could increase the number of food boxes that volunteers deliver to low-income seniors.
“Most food pantries require recipients to come to them,” said SALT pantry coordinator Joyce Gaines.
“SALT volunteers deliver boxes of food twice a month to more than 100 households. Senior adults frequently have difficulty getting to the grocery store due to health problems, limited mobility, and/or lack of transportation. In addition, fixed incomes, medication costs, unexpected repairs, and high utility bills mean seniors can’t always keep food in their pantries. Our vision is that no senior in Wilson County will go hungry.”
Other churches applied grant money toward retrofitting their churches with new ramps, lifts, and improved parking lots to increase accessibility and make older buildings and facilities ADA compliant. The improvements also make older adult worshippers feel welcomed and valued. In some cases, the upgrades encouraged members to return to church.
Grant money is also being used by churches and organizations for new and innovative programs. Members of Madison Street UMC in Clarksville, Tennessee, used their grant money to help fund an iPad pilot project for older adults and the Council on Aging of Middle Tennessee (COA) is developing an intergenerational home sharing program.
“Older adults have become isolated because many church communications – newsletters, schedules, and other church information – are now distributed electronically,” said Aleeta Christian, chair of Madison Street UMC’s Electronic Train team. “Many older adults do not have access to or the skill to use electronic devices. They may also lack funds to purchase devices due to living on fixed incomes.”
In early 2019, the church offered workshops to interested older adults to introduce them to the iPads and select recipients. To qualify for an iPad, persons needed to be 62+ years old who did not have an iPad, and who would commit to attending training sessions and donate $100 in matching funds.
“Learning to use an iPad and keyboard is not easy for anyone, especially older adults who have few experiences with newer electronic devices,” said Christian. “Sometimes it was hard and frustrating to all – participants, leaders, and Electronic Train team members – but overall it was very gratifying. Older adults can learn new things. It was so fun watching that happen.”
Golden Cross Foundation grant money is being used by COA staff to help organize and launch an intergenerational home sharing program in the greater Nashville area. Projected to launch in fall 2020, the program will help address the lack of affordable housing and negative health impacts of social isolation by matching older adults who want to stay in their homes with graduate students or other eligible adults who need affordable rent.
“Most of us, as we grow older, want to stay in our own homes,” said COA Executive Director Grace Sutherland Smith. “However, it can become challenging when living on a fixed budget and struggling with rising living costs. The intergenerational home sharing program will match older homeowners who have a spare bedroom with a graduate student or other adult, offering both an economic benefit and social connection.”
GCF’s board of directors meets four times a year to review grant proposals. In 2019, grants were given to churches of all sizes including 40-member Kynett UMC in Sparta, Tennessee, and 1,138-member Calvary UMC in Nashville. Recipients were:
|Burton Chapel UMC||$5,412.00|
|Council on Aging of Middle TN||$10,000.00|
|Elder’s Chapel UMC||$1,600.00|
|First UMC Gainesboro||$10,000.00|
|First UMC Lawrenceburg||$10,000.00|
|First UMC Mt. Pleasant||$10,000.00|
|Gordon Memorial UMC||$8,000.00|
|Key Stewart UMC||$1,500.00|
|LaVergne First UMC||$6,332.00|
|Little Lot UMC||$1,850.00|
|Mt. Union UMC||$7,820.00|
|Smith Chapel UMC||$2,528.00|
Since 2013 more than $487,000 in grant money has been awarded to 48 UM churches and organizations.
“Word continues to spread about the Golden Cross Foundation grants and the positive impact it is making in older adults’ lives,” said McNish. “If your church wants to start or expand an older adult ministry or you want to retrofit your building to make it more accessible, safe, and welcoming, we encourage you to apply.”
Application due dates are four weeks prior to a board meeting. The 2020 board meetings are March 19, May 21, September 17, and December 10. For more information and an online application click here or visit www.goldencrossfoundation.org/application-guidelines/.