Fishtown’s charitable church

Liberti Church East is plan­ning its an­nu­al East­er out­reach pro­gram, which raised $40,000 last year to dis­trib­ute 1,200 East­er meals to River Ward fam­il­ies in need. This year, it plans to raise $50,000 and dig two drink­ing wa­ter wells in South­ern Su­dan.

Ry­an Egli, of Fishtown’s Liberti Church East, said that he meets many people who need help with big prob­lems — par­ents laid off from full-time jobs, older people liv­ing without ac­cess to good meals, or single moth­ers strug­gling with five or six chil­dren.

In turn, Egli and Liberti Church are at­tempt­ing to meet those big prob­lems with small, but mean­ing­ful, solu­tions.

“It’s about one little meal and a nice ges­ture from some­body,” Egli said.

Fam­il­ies in need in Fishtown, Olde Rich­mond, Kens­ing­ton and oth­er Phil­adelphia neigh­bor­hoods will re­ceive free East­er din­ners on March 30 as part of the church’s third-an­nu­al East­er out­reach pro­gram.

Liberti Church East, loc­ated in 2424 Stu­di­os on East York Street, partnered with oth­er branches of its church — else­where in the city and in Har­ris­burg — to raise $40,000 for the pro­gram last year, and de­livered 1,200 East­er meals to loc­al fam­il­ies.

This year, Liberti aims to raise $50,000 and de­liv­er 1,500 meals.

Egli, dir­ect­or of mercy and out­reach at Liberti, con­ceived of the East­er din­ner giveaway when he was only a church mem­ber at Liberti East, and still a re­cent trans­plant to Phil­adelphia from his nat­ive Illinois.

It al­ways struck him as odd, Egli said, that East­er wasn’t a ded­ic­ated day of vo­lun­teer ser­vice.

When the East­er out­reach pro­gram began in 2010, Egli said the church was so un­sure of the in­terest in the pro­ject that a church pas­tor in­cluded vo­lun­teers’ per­son­al cell phone num­bers in the ad. With­in days, they had re­ceived over a hun­dred mes­sages from fam­il­ies ask­ing for help.

This year, Liberti will need about 300 vo­lun­teers to de­liv­er the planned 1,500 meals. Many, Egli said, will be loc­al com­munity mem­bers who have helped out in the past. Con­greg­a­tion mem­bers and oth­er vo­lun­teers will each de­liv­er meals to five to sev­en homes.

Every fam­ily will re­ceive a ham that serves four people from Hat­field Hams, along with a se­lec­tion of side dishes from Phil­abund­ance, the re­gion’s largest food bank and hun­ger re­lief or­gan­iz­a­tion.

Church mem­bers will of­fer to pray with the fam­il­ies re­ceiv­ing din­ners, of­fer them emo­tion­al sup­port, and also of­fer to fol­low up after East­er to ad­dress needs or prob­lems the fam­ily may be fa­cing.

Philip Stoltz­fus, a Liberti Church East mem­ber as well as pres­id­ent of the Olde Rich­mond Civic As­so­ci­ation, said past ex­per­i­ences with the East­er out­reach pro­gram have been eye-open­ing.

“There’s fam­il­ies in Olde Rich­mond, Fishtown, Kens­ing­ton, people all over our com­munity — they’re in a tough place,” he said.

Stoltz­fus re­called the ex­per­i­ence of vo­lun­teer­ing for this pro­gram along­side his wife as an emo­tion­al one.

“There were some His­pan­ic fam­il­ies, there were some folks who spoke very little Eng­lish,” he re­called. “Some of them are shut-ins, some of them are dis­con­nec­ted from the com­munit­ies in which they live. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their voices – it’s an op­por­tun­ity not only to get a meal but cer­tainly also to make a con­nec­tion with people who live in the River Wards.”

With the $50,000 goal, Liberti also plans to use some of the funds to pay for the dig­ging of two wells in South­ern Su­dan.

The two wells could provide drink­ing wa­ter to up to 6,000 people, Egli said. That ef­fort is be­ing co­ordin­ated through the non-profit groups Wa­ter is Ba­sic, Afric­an Lead­er­ship and Re­con­cili­ation Min­is­tries (ALARM), and church friends and mem­bers who are do­ing mis­sion­ary work in the re­gion cur­rently.

Egli said that this pro­ject is both a way to help ease fam­il­ies fa­cing tough cir­cum­stances, and for the church to “show love” to their com­munity.

“For all Chris­ti­ans, East­er is the center­piece of the cal­en­dar. It’s what the whole year points to, the whole re­li­gion points to the re­sur­rec­tion of Je­sus,” Egli said. “We’re people who’ve been shown great mercy and kind­ness by God, so we try to show mercy and kind­ness to oth­ers.”

To learn more about Liberti Church’s East­er Out­reach pro­ject, vis­it www.liber­ To re­quest a free East­er din­ner, call 267-507-4250.

Re­port­er Sam Ne­w­house can be reached at 215-354-3124 or at sne­w­

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