As a church, we have more than one mission. Our first mission, of course, is to be "the church": a community of believers whose faith teaches that another world--a world of justice and peace--is possible. Making that world a reality in our individual lives and in the life of the church is our primary mission. To that end, we participate in several ministry and mission projects.
CUCC-PG Endowment Fund
The CUCC-PG Endowment Fund is a special trust that provides money from investment growth and earned interest to support selected missions and outreach. Each year, half of the Fund's earnings are retained to grow the Fund and insure its longevity. The other half of the earnings are distributed annually toward projects that fall into one or more of the following categories: education, community service, UCC mission projects, and capital improvements. The Fund is administered by the Endowment Team. Our current Endowment Team Lead is Bil Tucker. Other members of the team are Carolyn Kvam-Hansman, Olin Lyons, Dick Michael, Don Nagle, and Kathy Rivadeneira. Projects are evaluated by the Team, and all disbursements are approved by the Leadership Team. In 2020, the Fund provided grants to Crossroads Hope Academy, Edgewater Bicycle Ministry, Military Heritage Museum and Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens. The Fund also provided monies to support the Social Justice Ministry Team and our Capital Campaign that was initiated in 2019. The audio/visual/computer upgrades that were needed for us to be able to continue worship during COVID-19 were funded in part by the Fund. For more information, contact Bil Tucker, Endowment Team Lead, through the church office: (941) 637-8443, . Bil can provide information about submitting a project request or making a tax-deductible gift to the fund.
Also in 2020, the Fund established the CUCC-PG Scholarship Fund. The purpose of the Scholarship Fund is to help promote a more just society by helping recipients with financial need further their education in ways that will ultimately enable them to better provide for themselves and their families and to participate more fully in our democracy. The initial distributions from the Scholarship Fund will occur in 2021. Seven seniors from the Charlotte High School Class of 2021 were named the first recipients of the Congregational United Church of Christ of Punta Gorda scholarships. Ongoing funding of the Scholarship Fund will be provided annually by the Endowment Fund. If you would like more information about the scholarship fund, contact Kathy Frantish through the church office: (941) 637-8443, . Kathy is the chair of the 2020-2021 Scholarship Team, Linda Greenfield is the clerk, and the remaining members of the team include Mary Cassidy-Anger who represents the Social Justice Ministries, Kathy Rivadeneira who is the Endowment Fund representative, and congregational representatives Susan James, Emily Klossner and Lee Swift.
United Church of Christ Annual Giving Commitments
Our church participates in several of the ongoing ministries of the United Church of Christ. As a congregation, we give annually to Our Church's Wider Mission, budgeting monies for basic support and per member contributions.
Throughout the year, there are four special offerings that provide members an opportunity to support specific missions:
One Great Hour of Sharing works with international partners to provide clean water, food, education and health care, small business micro-credits, advocacy and resettlement for refugees and displaced persons, and emergency relief and rehabilitation. OGHS also supports domestic and international ministries for disaster preparedness and response. This offering is usually given during the fourth Sunday of Lent. In 2021, our congregation remitted $1,225 to the Florida Conference for 2021 OGHS missions.
Strengthen the Church is a special mission offering to reimagine and build the future of the UCC. Shared at the conference and national levels, STC largely supports youth ministries and full-time leaders for new churches in parts of the country where the UCC does not have a strong presence. It also provides support for new initiatives of existing churches. This offering is received on Pentecost Sunday. Our 2021 contribution to STC was $775.
Neighbors in Need supports ministries of justice and compassion throughout the United States. One-third of NIN funds support the Council for American Indian Ministry. Two-thirds of the offering is used by the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries to support a variety of justice initiatives, advocacy efforts, and direct service projects through grants. NIN grants are awarded to churches and organizations doing justice work in their communities. These grants fund projects whose work ranges from direct service to community organizing and advocacy to address systemic injustice. This offering is received the first Sunday of October as part of World Communion Sunday.
The Christmas Fund for the Veterans of the Cross and the Emergency Fund is administered through the United Church Board for Ministerial Assistance, the charitable arm of the UCC Pension Board. Funds provide direct financial support to those who serve the church and are facing financial difficulties. Active and retired clergy, lay employees and their surviving spouses may be eligible. This offering is received on the Sunday before Christmas.
Local Ongoing Ministries
St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry: Our members donate food and provide financial support for the local chapter of St. Vincent de Paul. Food is collected in the wheelbarrow at the front of the sanctuary on a weekly basis. Monetary donations are also encouraged and can be placed in the box located near the wheelbarrow. This ministry serves as a regular reminder of our need to help feed the hungry and assist those less fortunate than ourselves.
Christmas Gift Card Giving Tree is a project that started a few years ago through a prior book group within the church. Despite the demise of the book group, the project is ongoing, and each Christmas season, members generously respond and decorate a Christmas tree with gift cards. School social workers at Charlotte High School allocate the cards to students in need. We often hear back that many of the students use the cards to buy gifts for their parents and other family members rather than using the cards for personal wants and needs. In 2020, CUCC-PG collected $1,285 in gift cards.
Short Sets for Baker Street: Over the years, a favorite mission has been the church's support of the Punta Gorda Women's Club annual children clothing drive for Baker Street Head Start. Typically, 100 outfits (plus or minus) are provided by our members for the children in sizes ranging from 6 months to 6 years. The drive brings out the inner grandparent in all of us.
Church Library: Our church library was made possible through a gift from the family of Cheryl Grafton, honoring her commitment to the life of our congregation. The library was dedicated on February 9, 2014. Our library houses approximately 250 non-fiction and 300 fiction books. Every effort is made to have copies of the Reading for Renewal books. There are also several books focusing on social justice issues featured atop the bookcase to the left of the television. The library also has a small reference section that includes a comprehensive 13-volume interpretative dictionary of the Bible. Sandy James-Nogaj is our librarian and can be reached through the office: (941) 637-8443, . Book donations are welcome throughout the year, although we do ask that book donations during the summer months be delayed until the fall.
Meeting Place for Community Groups: Because we believe in being a part of and serving our local community, we welcome the use of our building by several 12-step groups throughout the week. We also host the monthly meeting in Indivisible Action Southwest Florida. If you are a member of a group that might be seeking a meeting place, please reach out to our office: (941) 637-8443, . Service groups, condominium associations, and other entities have used our facilities in the past, and we encourage your inquiries.
Special Projects: From time to time, our church feels compelled to step up and donate money, time and/or talents to events that are happening in our community, state, country, and the world. Often, these opportunities are facilitated through the Florida Conference of the UCC. In 2019, 2018 and 2017, hurricane relief efforts were supported by several of our members. In 2017, having largely been spared by Hurricane Irma, we facilitated a community collection of donations, food and other items for our neighbors in nearby Arcadia, Florida. In 2018, we donated to the UCC's Keeping Families Together in response to the actions that were being undertaken at the borders to separate families.