Workers, volunteers share milestone for program which provides help to needy

MOUNT VERNON — For the last 50 years, Interchurch Social Services of Knox County has provided assistance to those in need in the county.

ISS workers, volunteers and supporters gathered together Sunday afternoon to celebrate the milestone for the program, which was started in 1968. The celebration began with a service at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, led by several different representatives of area churches and featured guest speaker Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer of the Ohio West Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church.

Palmer spoke about the mission of Interchurch, to help neighbors in need, and shared the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke in the Bible. Palmer explained that the parable teaches that a life with purpose and fulfillment is a life that is lead loving God and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. In the parable, a Samaritan man finds a man on the road who had been robbed, beaten and left for dead. Before the Samaritan man arrived and helped the man, two others had passed by the beaten man without stopping to help him. Palmer explained that the story of the inception and development of Interchurch is very much like the parable noting that loving your neighbor requires both “seeing” when there is a problem and “engaging” to help your neighbor through the problem.

The Heritage Singers also performed.

The service was followed by a dinner and program in the St. Vincent de Paul school gymnasium meant to say thank you to the volunteers, workers and supporters of ISS. County Commissioner Tom Collier presented a resolution, on behalf of the Knox County Board of Commissioners, recognizing the 50th anniversary. Collier shared that his mother had been a volunteer with ISS when he was growing up, but noted it was in his adulthood that he realized the scope of the help that ISS provides the county.

“I grew up knowing about Interchurch Social Services and all the different things that they do and participate in…,” Collier shared, “but it was really when I reached the Statehouse a few years later and realized, when I represented other communities and people would call with needs into our office in Columbus — if they weren’t in Knox County it was very difficult to locate the right people for them to find them help in the right area. But when they called from Knox County, it was easy. We always started with ‘have you talked to Interchurch?’ because they were there to meet so many needs, and it really gave me a great appreciation for what we have in Knox County. Many counties, communities, even today, don’t have what we have.”

Mayor Richard Mavis also presented a proclamation on behalf of city council. He reminisced on his years of campaigning and being asked the question “what does the community need?”

“Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of people — including myself make a response — and you know they’ll say ‘We need better roads … we need more police men…” I don’t know that I ever heard anyone say ‘We need more compassionate people,’” Mavis said.

Mavis remarked that ISS, along with Mount Vernon Nazarene University, started in 1968.

“We had two of our more important agencies, or institutions, start in the same year — 50 years ago,” Mavis said. “And they’ve grown. Each is like a garden, they get better with the seasons, and in the end we’re all better for it.”

Samantha Scoles, President of Food for the Hungry, spoke to attendees about the beginning of Food for the Hungry in 1982, which, in its first year, brought in 9 truckloads of food and $1,600 in donations for Interchurch. Since that time, Scoles said, the partnership has continued to thrive, bringing in money and food for the benefit of Interchurch, The Salvation Army and various programs through the FFTH grants.

She said through the history of the partnership between ISS and FFTH, over $2 million and 500 truckloads of food have been donated to the agency.

“Food for the Hungry is proud of our efforts to raise these funds — from teaching our youngest citizens about compassion and philanthropy through our school drives — to fundraisers by companies and civic organization,” Scoles said. “At the end of the day, these efforts are meaningless without the diligent work by Interchuch and The Salvation Army to distribute the funds to those in need.”

Messages of congratulations and the hope that Interchurch will continue to thrive into the next half century were shared by Rev. Roy Godfrey, a past pastor of Faith Lutheran Church, and by Rev. Jim Magaw, formerly of Gay Street United Methodist Church, who were both involved with ISS when they served in Mount Vernon but who were unable to attend the dinner.

Interchurch Social Services of Knox County is located Mount Vernon, Centerburg, Danville and Fredericktown.

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Callan Pugh: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews




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