A few days a week, inside a former apartment building across the street from Kingwood United Methodist Church, people show up and fill the rooms with laughter, prayers and the love of Christ lived out.
That building is where the Society of St. Stephens ministry is housed. There’s a little library, a clothing and shoe department, and a full pantry complete with meat and dairy—all necessities and supplies ready to go to low-income families in the area.
“When you come into this office, it’s because you’re in financial need or you have health issues. We have the opportunity to help people who have nowhere else to go and pray with them,” Patty Carter said, who is the director of Society of St. Stephens.
The society is open for families from Humble, New Caney and Splendora ISDs three days per week. They can come in once every month to receive food and once every other month for clothing. Families can also receive help with utilities, prescriptions, and eyeglasses once every 12 months.
Volunteers, both from KUMC and throughout the community, show up as well to help the families get what they need. This gathering of servants is where the laughter comes in, Patty said.
“We start every day with prayer, and that’s important, but there’s also so much laughter in all of us getting together and sharing,” Patty said. It’s clear that the volunteers love to serve the Lord, and they do so by seeing the needs of others and stepping up to meet them.
There are special touches, too. When it’s a client’s birthday, volunteers give out a “Birthday Bag” with a ready-to-go party inside: a cake mix, icing, and plates. To help with communication, former Spanish teachers volunteer to translate for the Spanish-speaking families who come to the society.
In total, the society serves well over 500 families each month and has a client base of 5,000 people of all ages. All of these small actions work to fulfill the original mission of the Society of St. Stephen.
A group of 11 women started the society in 1981 in a closet inside KUMC on the grounds that there was a need in this community, and they were there to meet it. So, they banded together as “an open group for doing the work of the Lord.” This saying, revealing their heart behind the ministry, is recorded on the now-faded minutes from the group’s first meeting.
It’s clear that the continuing volunteers remember that commitment and honor it now. The main thing, Patty said, is making sure the clients know that they’re important.
“Just because they’re down on their luck doesn’t mean they’re not loved. They are worthy, and they’re not lost causes,” Patty said. “It’s amazing to see how grateful they are to be treated like they have worth. It does make a difference.”
In addition to the regular events, the society also plans special events throughout the year.
Their tennis tournament, set for May 7th at the Club of Kingwood Tennis Center, is the main fundraiser to support the Back to School event in which the society packs backpacks, school supplies and shoes for 1,000 children at the beginning of each school year.
They also are able to give out college scholarships to six students and step up at Thanksgiving and Christmas to give away food and presents for about 400 families.
Kingwood UMC members support these events in many capacities from making donations to volunteering, and the church as a whole helps the ministry by paying the building’s rent and utilities.
For Patty, who has volunteered with the society for almost 20 years, her favorite thing about it is the focus on the people—the families she gets to help and the times where she gets to see God at work in their lives. She added that seeing this is a blessing in return to her and the other volunteers.
“The thing that’s so amazing are the stories that come in. We get to see lives changed and have the opportunity to share Christ with these people,” Patty said.
To find out how you can help, visit www.kingwoodumc.org/society-of-st-stephen/.