Asbury First of Rochester’s new Community Outreach Center
Food distribution, community meals, medical services, haircuts, laundry, and clothing. These are ministries that Asbury First United Methodist Church has offered to the Rochester community for decades. Now, these services and more will be offered more frequently and will be housed under one roof, at the newly renovated and expanded Community Outreach Center, across the street from the church at 1010 East Avenue.
The Community Outreach Center Dedication service
On Sunday Nov. 20, a frigidly cold morning, hundreds of people came to the Community Outreach Center Dedication service. In the sermon, entitled, “The Hope of Faith,” lead pastor, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Cady, preached about the history of the church, which started with 30 members meeting at a schoolhouse in 1820.
Rev. Dr. Cady said, “They had no building, no money, and no idea what was ahead for them. In the end, all they really had was the same thing we’re left with at the end of the day—faith in Jesus Christ and the courage to hope. Fortunately for them and fortunately for us, it was enough”
Rev. Dr. Cady went on to explain that as the church grew, it faced devastating fires, the Civil War, world wars, the Great Depression, pandemics, foreclosures; “they still found their way forward…always holding on to hope and faith.”
And as for the building across the street, Rev. Dr. Cady said, “When we bought 1010 East Avenue, a mansion that had been used by Ruth Fitch for decades before to invite people in to have community conversation around health, we thought we would raise the building to the ground to make room for a new chapel, but at the last minute, decided that maybe it still has a use as a community house. Little did we know! That we would decide to make the building a community outreach center to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, care for the sick, and then a global pandemic struck, and we persevered!”
Rev. Dr. Cady said that the freezing cold on this dedication day reminds us of “all of those people for whom we are dedicating this center” and the incompleteness of construction reminds us that our work, the work that Jesus has placed before us to love our neighbor as ourself, is not complete, not until every single one of God’s children: young and old, Black and white, gay and straight, male and female, rich and poor, broken and whole, Republican and Democrat, trans and cis, and everyone in between finally has a place that they can call home.”
The dedication that was supposed to take place in front of the new Community Outreach Center took place in the church building with a reception following, offering a wide array of treats.
After the service, the Community Outreach Center Director, the Rev. Pat Dupont, provided tours of 1033 East Ave., showcasing what the building will soon become.
Rays of sunlight angelically beamed through the building’s tall, gorgeous windows into the foyer.
Rev. Dupont said, “While renovating and expanding the space to be better suited to serving the community was the top priority, great attention was given to maintaining the building’s historic character. Notable changes are the addition of large windows in the lower level to open up the space and offer natural light, lowering the foundation to accommodate greater ceiling height, and the addition of an elevator and new main entrance. These changes create a much more welcoming and dignified space for visitors and guests of the Center.”
Upgrading the food distribution
Asbury First has used 1033 East Avenue to offer a soup kitchen to the public in the basement as well as a grocery ministry. Their meal program has historically served more than 35,000 meals each year and continued to operate during the pandemic with to-go meals.
The foyer opens into a large dining room with a full kitchen. There is a small private room attached where the newly hired full-time social worker, Robin Manley, can meet with people when they come for meals, to see how the center can meet their needs.
Last summer, the church started a community garden adjacent to the 1033 East Ave. building. This garden produced an amazing bounty of carrots, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, lettuce, collards, Swiss chard, broccoli, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, and peppers.
Diane Louise Carter leads the community garden taskforce; she said what the garden produced “was much more than we ever expected!”
Diane Louise attributes the garden’s success to a grant that was provided by the Monroe Soil Conservation Service. They provided the soil, which was comprised mostly of compost.
Diane Louise is excited to see how the garden can support the food ministry in the building. She envisions providing fresh produce in the grocery bags and also using it in the meals cooked for the community meals.
What Diane Louise calls her “blue sky thinking” is to lengthen the time that the garden produce can be used by considering food preservation.
Upgrading the personal care
1033 East Avenue has always provided a shower for the community and had a single barber chair in what Rev. Dupont called the once “dingy” basement. Now, the church has multiple shower stalls and a full-service salon space on the second floor.
Upgrading the clothing ministry
Asbury First’s clothing program provides more than 6,000 families annually with donated clothing-including appropriate clothing for job interviews and workplace—kitchenware, linens, children’s books, games, and toys are also provided.
These items used to be housed in storage closets. They will now be displayed in a huge open area with changing rooms.
Pointing to the large windows in this space on the second floor, Rev. Dupont said, “This will have our community guests feel like they are in a department store with the natural light that will come in.”
Upgrading the medical care
The UR Well Clinic that has been housed at 1033 East Ave is a walk-in clinic that is a collaboration with the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry; it provides free acute health care and physicals needed for employment. This clinic used to be offered one evening a week and will now be offered throughout the week.
The space for the clinic, located on the second floor, looks very professional with a welcoming waiting room, an office for the doctor, and clinical exam rooms.
Upgrading the accessibility
The three floors of the building used to only be reachable by stairs; there is now a full-service elevator.
Asbury First is living out the Upper New York vision, “to live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and be God’s love with our neighbors in all places.”
The many ministries housed at 1033 East Avenue will benefit thousands of people in Rochester. As Diane Louise said, “There will be a synergy of all the programs here because we are all in the same building.”