AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre “These are God’s children – not just at Thanksgiving or Christmas, but all year-round – and so this is what we do.” With social needs mounting in Southern California – there are more hungry and homeless, more disabled, mentally ill and abused wandering the streets – some churches and synagogues are on a mission. They’re stepping in to help, without the miles of red tape that bog down public aid. At Simi Valley United Methodist Church, congregants work in hard harts and tool belts building Habitat for Humanity houses for low-income families. The 50-member Sonshine Christian Church in Newhall just gathered the money to help a family that lost its home in last month’s wildfires. Before that, members gathered to re-roof and make other repairs at the home of a family in need. North Hollywood’s Temple Adat Ari El hosts a rotating homeless shelter once a month, and organizes regular collections of food, baby items and other essentials for the needy. A couple times a month, a group gathers in a church kitchen in Hermosa Beach and turns eight loaves of bread into sandwiches for scores of AIDS patients. In Chatsworth, meanwhile, women from a church in Northridge bring birthday cakes to Rancho San Antonio Boys Town, a Catholic group home for teens in trouble. For many of the more than 100 residents, it’s the first time anyone’s celebrated their birthday. Church groups like these work hands-on year-round helping those in need – the homeless, the hungry, the incarcerated, the sick and the poor. But unlike seasonal gift collections and food drives, their work doesn’t begin and end with the holidays. “It’s what our faith calls us to do, to reach out to folks in need,” said the Rev. Jerry Stinson, senior pastor at First Congregational Church in Long Beach, which runs programs for the homeless and for poor children. Temple Israel’s leaders met this week at the Long Beach Reform synagogue to begin plans for Mitvah Day in March in which members young and old take on small tasks that make a big difference. Retiree Audrie Wing is a member of the AIDS Ministry of St.Cross by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Hermosa Beach. She and a dozen other women meet once or twice a month to make lunch and deliver it to some 75 AIDS and HIV patients at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center. Earlier this week, the women collected their Costco groceries and turned out piles and piles of tuna, peanut butter-and-jelly, turkey and ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Salad, chips, drinks, cookies and candy were added to the load and three of them headed to L.A. where the feast was set upon tables in a hospital waiting room. “For me, it’s important to my belief, my faith,” Wing said. “It’s important to do something for other people. Being hands-on is very meaningful – not for them, for me.” For the teens at Rancho San Antonio, a birthday cake, a card and perhaps a small gift from members of the women’s guilds at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Northridge go a long, long way. “Some of these kids have never had anyone remember their birthday, let alone make them a cake,” said Brother John Crowe, director of the center. “I think the card oftentimes means the most – someone they don’t know doing these things. They find out there are people in life who care about other people because they are human beings, not because they can do something for them.” “It’s a concept a lot of kids don’t have when they first come here.” In Long Beach, Stinson’s church hosts year-round programs for the homeless and a special summer day camp for children from low-income families. The church, with help from other congregations, allows about 130 homeless to sleep on its grounds, shelter that in the past caused some problems with City Hall, Stinson said. On Sundays, as many as 500 homeless come to the church for two meals, a chance to watch videos and read newspapers and an opportunity to use the church computer room to catch up with e-mail and other business. The summer day-care program means meals for children from low-income households, some academics and a lot of fun. Everyone benefits, Stinson said, when worshipers get their hands dirty helping those in need rather than consider their duty done Sunday mornings after the collection plate is passed. “It’s easy to write a check in a lot of cases,” Stinson said. “It’s only when you volunteer, you begin to understand homelessness. When you work with the neighborhood kids, you understand what poverty does.” In the end, the faithful benefit by practicing the lessons learned from the pulpit and society benefits because people with jobs and homes quickly understand what it’s like to be without, Stinson said. “You begin to see you commonality with those folks and next time legislation comes up you respond differently than when you just write a check. The service leads to advocacy.” For the members of Sonshine, it’s about emulating Christ. “For us faith is everything, and Christ is the example,” the Rev. Richard Assad said. “Real salvation comes from following his example and if we do that, God will give us the strength we need to do what is needed and he will give us the materials.” It’s not unusual, Assad said, for the tiny church to spend its rent money to help someone in need, then find a check to cover the bills. “When we get a call, someone says there’s a project and we need you, they all show up,” he said of his membership. “They either show up with their muscles or they show up with a check. Either one works for us.” In North Hollywood, the San Fernando Valley Rescue Mission plants its rotating homeless shelter once a month at Temple Adat Ari El. There, two mission staffers are joined by some 20 temple volunteers who do everything from cooking meals to playing with youngsters who have no place to call home, Rabbi Jonathan Bernhard said. “We very fervently believe in bettering in the world,” Bernhard said. “Part of our task as Jews is to make this world a better place than as we found it.” The temple has made it a goal to help the homeless and work for affordable housing. “It’s not just about doing good deeds, it’s about fulfilling the goal of this congregation,” Bernhard said. “You can go a lot of places to better the world and lots of places to better yourself, but it’s the congregation that allows you to do both.” [email protected] 661-257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!