Church invites community to reach out

A few Sundays ago, some 60 parishioners of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church filled 888 brown paper bags with turkey sandwiches, bags of chips and other lunchtime treats. The bags were picked up by the Bridgeport Rescue Mission and distributed to 175 Norwalk children — over the course of the last week of summer vacation — who normally get a nourishing meal from the city on school days.

It was just one of many charitable acts organized by the church's outreach committee, which is presenting an outreach fair on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 11:30 to 12:30 or 1, at the church at 36 New Canaan Road. Although the fair follows the 10 a.m. service, the Wilton community is invited.

The fair will feature 15 to 20 nonprofit organizations the church supports financially. They are not all in Wilton, but they all support Wilton to some extent, said Al Leach, a St. Matthew's parishioner.

"The mission is to provide financial support, and also volunteerism from the parish to help serve the community," he said. The organizations have been invited "to showcase their services of how they support our families, children and community.

"We invite our parishioners to attend and bring their friends," he continued. "They can find out how to support the organizations, become volunteers or avail themselves of their services if needed."

One of the organizations invited is Christian Community Action in Norwalk, which informs the church of the need for furniture by its clients.

"This past Christmas children needed beds," Mr. Leach said. "That's something we take for granted, but children were sleeping on sofas, chaises and floors. There was one family near tears because their child had never owned a bed." At a time of year when so many people receive gifts, "how wonderful it is to give," he said.

The chairman of the outreach committee is Steve Pettit. He joined the committee six years ago and has been chairman for the last three or four, he said.

"Outreach is my foremost passion as a parishioner," he said, describing the committee as a nucleus of dedicated people numbering about 15.

"We have supported some of the agencies a long time, some only a year or so," he said.

"Wilton Social Services is one of our dearest and one of the agencies we support most actively both hands-on and financially," he said. A recent gift was an automated external defibrillator for the Wilton Senior Center.

For its entire 23-year history the church has supported the HomeFront program, which was first called Christmas in April, then AmeriCares HomeFront. Now it is an independent organization. Through the program, volunteers repair and maintain homes of elderly people by painting, planting or performing minor carpentry, plumbing or electrical work.

"It's a very rewarding weekend day when we get 15 to 20 people to help an elderly person or persons with their house upkeep," he said.

Habitat for Humanity is another organization supported by the church. "We have been involved with building several houses in the Stamford and Bridgeport areas," Mr. Pettit said.

With St. John's Church in Bridgeport, St. Matthew's was able to give a two-year grant that paid for computers and tutors in three underperforming schools in the area.

This outreach fair will be the second for the church; the first was in 2010 and it is planned as a biennial event. There is no admission, but anyone planning to attend is asked to call the church office at 203-762-7400 or email Mr. Leach at to enable the church to plan to have enough coffee on hand.