Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills

Open minds, loving hearts, helping hands


Are you “IHN” it to win it?

Author Sarah Ahrens, Written Jan 14, 2013

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On Tuesday evening, January 8 I showed up at the Bridgewater United Methodist Church to volunteer for the Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN).  I would be assisting during the 5-9 p.m. dinner service and staying for the overnight shift through 6 a.m. Wednesday- I figured I’d pull double duty and experience both types of IHN service that UUCSH supports.

For years I’ve heard from Social Action Committee (SAC) folks about IHN and with my renewed commitment to participate in some form of community service at least once per month as one of my new year’s resolutions I thought I would finally see what it was all about.

For those who are not familiar with the Interfaith Hospitality Network, IHN arranges for adults and children to have temporary shelter at host locations while providing a meal for them and food to pack for breakfast and lunch the following day.  During the day, children may go to childcare or school, while adults work if employed or work on resume writing and skill development in order to gain employment.

While UUCSH has never been in a position to be a host congregation for overnight stays, it is wonderful to have a partnership with Bridgewater United Methodist (BUMC) to provide “people power” for the dinner and overnight shift.

I really enjoyed my time volunteering.  It may not seem like a tremendous effort- socializing with the adults and children during dinner and playing games and having fun with children afterwards (okay so the having fun with the kids was a bit of a workout but what a rewarding way to burn some calories!)- but I am glad I got to be part of the experience.  I was also fortunate to share the time with veteran IHN-ers Anne Mellen and Mark Allison to keep me company in the down time!

I encourage you to take a turn at either a dinner shift or an overnight shift, or support IHN in whatever way you can- with time, energy, and money.  As I often like to consider how I can address both the social symptoms and social causes of social ills via social action, this is definitely a good way to address the social symptoms of a deeper underlying inequality of our society.  At the same time, IHN is working to address those systemic flaws that lead to homelessness and poverty.  Let UUCSH continue to be a partner on both those fronts!

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