By Peggy Carroll
Two hundred thousand meals – all packed in one day.
A thousand gifts, all wrapped in one day.
Hundreds of warm winter coats, all collected in one day.
It is the fifth of its kind– and the largest so far.
On Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015, some 2000 church members, friends and families will gather at eight locations in five counties to put it all together: Pack the meals for the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, select the right gift for right person and donate new or nearly new coats.
In Morris County alone, some 500 volunteers are expected at the Knoll East Golf Course in Parsippany, where they will pack 60,000 meals.
All in a single day.
Tim Lucas, the head pastor and founder of the Church, explained the reasons for the massive effort.
“The need in our state is tremendous. New Jersey’s homeless population increased by 15 percent last year and studies show that 38 percent of New Jersey families struggle to meet basic needs . That’s why we stretched ourselves to make this our largest Christmas Outreach.”
But providing the Christmas meals, Lucas said, is only the first step towards reaching a church goal to fund more than one million meals for New Jersey’s hungry and homeless over the next two years.
“We want to help transform lives in New Jersey by expanding our ministry partnerships with those agencies already serving our state’s most vulnerable,“ he said.
Lauren Bercarich, the church’s communications director, said the Outreach day is a family affair, with children welcome to work with their parents. Additional volunteers are welcome– attendance at the church is not required– but they are asked to register.
Volunteers will work in two shifts (10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.) to pack a nutritionally fortified pasta with Italian tomato basil sauce. Liquid Church is funding as well as packing all meals which the FoodBank will distribute throughout the holiday season.
Those who are not assembling meals will be working on a second very Christmas-y project. In recent weeks, church members have been purchasing toys and other gifts for more than 1,000 local children and their families.
On Saturday, teams will match up requests for specific items with the purchased gifts, wrap them and label them for the right person.
As an added gift, church members are are asked to donate a new or nearly new; hundreds are expected. Both the gifts and the coats, Bercarich said, will be distributed by agencies that deal with the homeless and those transitioning from homelessness, victims of domestic violence and others who live with little means and with much pain.
The church, which describes itself as one of the fastest growing Christian churches in New Jersey, with a vision and mission to “saturate the state with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” has campuses in five counties (Morris, Somerset, Union, Middlesex and Essex).
Since it was established in 2007, its membership has grown to 3,500. In Morristown , 1,200 people attend weekly worship at the Hyatt Hotel.
In addition to its work in the state, the church has a global reach via services over the internet.
Members also support international projects, including — aptly for a “liquid” church–clean water.
Working with Living Water International, the church has funded dozens of wells in El Salvador and Nicaragua and most recently, Rwanda.
Teams of members visit the sites, Bercarich said, to help out. The first trip to Rwanda is scheduled for 2016. That is, Bercarich said, another important first step.