Three Chelsea churches--St. Barnabas Episcopal, St. Paul United Church of Christ, and St. Mary Catholic--founded Faith in Action thirty-two years ago. "Now nineteen different churches are working with us," says Paul. "That's close to everybody out here. Every church wants to have a compassionate response, but they don't all have the same capacity as a larger church, and we make that response possible."
The recession made the need even more urgent. "We're helping a lot of people who've never had to ask for help before," Paul says. "They don't know what's out there [to help families with financial problems], and they're mortified to have to ask at all.
"The biggest part of what we do is to operate the local food pantry, but that's only part of it," Paul says. "We also have a clothing room, and we know it helps keep kids in clothes, especially in the winter. And we also deal with utility shutoffs and evictions and problems with health care and domestic violence issues. Altogether, there are around 250 to 300 families that we have contact with over the course of a year."
Though Faith in Action is often the first point of contact for people seeking help, Paul says the solutions to their problems often involve other human-services agencies. "Let's say somebody's having trouble making their utility payment. We can call over to the Salvation Army, and they'll pay a little bit, we'll pay a little bit, and the client will pay a little bit, and we'll get it taken care of."