News and Views

Colesville UMC Tackles COVID -19

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By Kenneth Clark

The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the entire world like nothing seen since the Great Spanish Influenza Pandemic 100 years ago.  Millions of lives have been lost to the virus with over 800,000 deaths in the United States.  Medical scientists and professionals have raced to find treatments and cures while our hospitals have been overrun and stressed to the limit with the sick and dying.  

Colesville UMC, too, has been active in the fight against COVID-19.  Even though it closed its doors to public worship at the inception of the pandemic in March 2020, the church has continued to live out its motto, “Community of Faith in Action.” 

In March 2021, Colesville UMC, in the face of the continuing spread of the Covid-19 virus, took a major step with direct action in the fight against COVID by making its building a Covid -19 testing site. 

Under the coordination of Dr. Langston Smith, the church’s leader for health ministries, the church entered into a partnership with the African American Health Program (AAHP) to provide COVID-19 testing.  Through this partnership, we made our building available for the very accurate PCR test for the COVID virus and provided a group of volunteers from Colesville UMC to support the administrative and non-medical activities for the process.  In addition to the tests, the program provided each person with a box containing personal protective equipment (PPE) that included masks, hand sanitizers and thermometers and important literature on the virus. 

In addition, canned goods as well as bags of fresh fruit and vegetables, were distributed to help those dealing with food insufficiency. Backpacks were also given out for local school children or others who needed them.  AAHP also provided the church with $1,000 for each testing day toward church costs for hosting these events.

Smith said, “The partnership with AAHP is not a new venture for Colesville UMC. We have incorporated the group into the annual Colesville UMC Health Fair sponsored by the church for over 12 years.” 

Each year, several dozen pints of blood have been collected, with several hundred participants getting screening tests for various diseases, flu vaccine and counseling and information on a number of illnesses. In addition, dental care screening and counseling from Howard University Dental School was provided.  These tests and blood donation activities have saved numerous lives over the years by identifying health issues for follow-up and providing blood for surgeries and other major health needs.

Not satisfied with this step and seeing the potential to satisfy a greater need in the community, Colesville UMC pastor, the Rev. Michael W. Armstrong, facilitated a $40,000 grant with Choose Healthy Life (CHL) and launched the CUMC COVID Outreach Program (CCOP). 

“This grant allowed our church to further coordinate with AAHP and with other like-minded community focused churches in the area,” Armstrong said.  

The coalition partners included AAHP, the National Center for Children and Families, the Montgomery County Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., The Church of Latter-Day Saints, Oak Chapel UMC, and Liberty Grove UMC.

Again, led by Dr. Smith as project manager and a host of Colesville UMC volunteers, this new coalition expanded the activities of the site to include the provision of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and boosters in addition to the COVID-19 tests. 

The partnership conducted six testing events and four vaccine events in the first phase from October through November 2021 that provided first and second doses as well as booster shots of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  Over 150 tests were administered, and 80 vaccinations/boosters given.  Boxes of PPE, can goods and fresh vegetables were also distributed.

The grant covered increased building operating costs, printing and copying costs, and special IT services for a new broad area Facebook page for disseminating about testing schedules and for website support. It also covered placement of extra advertising in local and regional websites and other media.  Similar costs for the work of our partner churches and organizations was also covered by the grant.

Through judicious management of the grant funds, Colesville UMC was able to extend this program of testing and vaccination into December with an additional 132 COVID-19 tests and 34 first, second or booster shots given.

One community participant in the testing program was heard to say, “Thank you, thank you!  This is a great service to the community.  I live in the Westover community across the street.  It's so nice to be able to come here to get tested.”

The partnership allowed the church to reach residents well beyond the original zip code areas including into more targeted communities to serve culturally and ethnically diverse populations.

It should be noted that Colesville UMC did not just start working with COVID this summer.  In fact, at the very onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Colesville began to spread facts, not fear, with solid information on this new virus in a special section on the website, on our Facebook page and through newsletter articles. 

Key to the success of this partnership was the creation of a special task force that included several key individuals to plan and implement each testing and vaccination event.  This project also provided some limited employment to a few people at a critical time.  

The latest news is that with the success of these programs, Colesville UMC is committed to continue with our CCOP COVID-19 testing weekly into the new year for several months. Partners partners at AAHP and NCCF plan to continue to support this work and we are thankful for additional support from the Baltimore-Washington Conference with an additional Covid-19 Community Grant.

Colesville UMC’s Outreach and Missions Ministry has also been active in meeting other needs in the community.  The pandemic put many people out of work and created food emergencies.  With its Hungry Neighbors program, Colesville provides bags of food and local grocery gift cards to meet food needs year-round.  Also, like many other groups, they provide extra special food boxes for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  In a show of support for the Hungry Neighbors Program, many church members donated portions of the canned goods and pre-packaged food that they received at the COVID testing to the Hungry Neighbors pantry.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is not over and variants are continuing to be created. Everyone is encouraged to get vaccinated and tested regularly while also taking all precautions in every gathering - wear masks and socially distance themselves.  Colesville's CCOP project will be here to help with the testing.

Barbara Baker Jan 12, 2022 8:17pm

This is an excellent program. Congratulations to the Colesville United Methodist Church community outreach. Great work!

Rev. Linda Jacobus Jan 13, 2022 10:19am

Colesville UMC has always been at the forefront of caring, justice and equality in the community. Thanks to Dr. Langston Smith and his team, and to Ken Clark for the article. I am very proud of the work you do, and proud to have served as a pastor of this great congregation!