Church Gives Big for the Holidays
By Dianne Anderson
Pastor Ivan Pitts likes to put the money where his heart is.
Over the past two years, he has given hundreds of thousands in the church’s tithes to support local programs, giving thanks to the organizations that do good work in service to the community.
In the midst of COVID, the church discovered they had fewer expenses and more income. Through their tithing outreach, they were able to give $150,000 last year to help people most in need within the community.
“One of the things I thought that was lacking in our great historic church is that we didn’t give enough to our community not just with our time but with our talent and our treasure,” said Rev. Pitts, senior pastor at Second Baptist Church, Santa Ana.
Although they aren’t a mega-ministry bringing in millions and millions of dollars, he said they are devoted.
“This year, we topped it with $165,000. The last two years in one of the most challenging economic times for nonprofits since the ’07 crash, we’ve been able to give over $300,000 to this community,” he said.
Through their outreach, they partnered with Wiseplace transitional housing in Santa Ana, giving gifts and volunteerism time. They adopted 40 women there, and are making a full-on Christmas dinner this year with desert. They continue to partner with Southwest Community Center along with cash gifts, and support for the nonprofit Family Promise.
Before the pandemic, he said many churches were on a rotation system, taking families into the church that were homeless, but employed, through the Family Promise program. Churches offered them a place to live for one week each quarter during the year. At his church, each family would have a classroom to live in with prepared meals, and access to the portable church shower.
“So they were not sleeping out in the street or the car, they’re sleeping in the church. They have wraparound services, tutors, social workers come in the afternoon to help with their families. After the next week they move to the next church,” he said.
Then the pandemic hit, and their church volunteers stepped up in various talents to keep things running smoothly, but the model then shifted to hotels and motels.
“[Family Promise] had to raise a significant amount of money because staying at the church is free but hotels are not. That’s why we were happy to give them money,” he said.
Recently, he said the church tried to expand funding and services to a few local schools, that, at best, seemed reluctant to connect.
“Finally, after a third try, the third school called back, [saying] what do you really want? Is this an opportunity to proselytize? The other two didn’t get back with us,” he said.
They began reaching out to various nonprofits and organizations, connecting with New Hope Elementary school where 99% of students are on free and reduced lunch. Most are living in multi-generational homes.
The level of need is very dense.
They adopted the school for Christmas, giving $4,000 in gift cards for groceries and gifts, as well cash for school supplies last year, and are doing it again this year. Through outreach, they have adopted 150 families this Christmas, along with a cash donation.
He was surprised that the principal asked if they had to use the money for school supplies, and he told her to use it where needed.
“She said, I have kids that don’t have appropriate shoes, I have kids that don’t have appropriate clothing, too small or way too big. This is 2021 and you don’t have kids with shoes?” he asks.
They are also continuing several other indirect and direct services. Before the vaccine was available and the seniors were afraid to go outside, he said their church delivered groceries. He said they are swamped with activities, but focused on keeping the doors open and keeping safe.
Settling back into what could be called a new normal routine, the church recently hired an office manager, particularly focused on staff, external relationships, resources and developing community partnerships.
Pastor Pitts said the church and its mission is still as relevant today as it ever was to bring the legacy of hope, help, healing and collaboration to the community.
Most of all, he and his church members wanted to reflect more deeply in recent times about what would happen if the church disappeared from the community.
“Would anyone know or would anyone care? We didn’t have an answer so we said let’s make sure we’re here and we want to impact it in a positive way,” he said.
Since re-opening last April, he said the church is doing fine, but it’s still a sacrifice.
“We don’t just have money waiting around to give. We had to dig deep and make a commitment. It didn’t come without criticism. There are folks who said we should be doing something else. No – we help people right now.”
To get help or give help, contact the church at 714.741.0590, or see https://sbc.family