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Asbury First United Methodist Church opens new community outreach center

 Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester has consolidated various services they provide into a newly-renovated Community Outreach Center at the East Ave. campus.
Stephanie Ballard
Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester has consolidated various services they provide into a newly-renovated Community Outreach Center at the East Ave. campus.

Asbury First United Methodist Church in Rochester has stepped up to expand services for those in need.

A number of parishioners gathered at that church on East Avenue in Rochester over the weekend to tour the location of their new Community Outreach Center. The newly-renovated building will consolidate services into one location, services that are now spread across the church’s three-building campus on East Avenue.

Senior Minister Stephen Cady said these ministries have been operating since 1965. The first one was a clothing ministry and it expanded to household goods. And Cady said that among other services, Asbury also helped provide a medical clinic and a dining and caring center.

“Truth be told, they’ve been operating in some of the worst spaces within our church and on our campus,” noted Cady. “And very few of them were fully accessible then. So, we felt like we needed to pull these together. And over the course of the last five years, we have been fundraising, working dreaming together as a congregation, until we could finally make it happen.”

Cady said that Asbury used an historic building on their campus that previously hosted important medical conversations around the community. He feels the building is continuing in the same tradition.

In partnership with the University of Rochester, the Outreach Center will have an on-site full-time social worker, medical and dental provider. They are seeking volunteers and licensed cosmetologists to volunteer for their organization.

“It’s a place that is bringing people together in order to have shared services, so that if someone comes needing clothing, they might also need a meal, or may need a haircut or shower or some medical care. And we can do that all-in-one accessible holistic space,” said Cady.”

The center will also provide items like clothing, food, household items, haircare, and other services.

Patrick Dupont, who is Asbury’s Minister of Outreach, said that as a church they feel that their mission and calling is to be in solidarity with poor and marginalized individuals.

“We think that as Christians and as Methodists that God is most present in people who are suffering in the poor,” Dupont said. “And so, we hope that this place can be kind of an outpost of the kingdom of heaven, a place where anybody, and everybody is welcome, and anybody and everybody can get what they need.”

Chuck Hanrahan is Director of the Building Committee and said it is gratifying to see completion of a project that began several years ago.

“This has been an opportunity to take the ministries that we’ve had at Asbury First for many years, but which were always in the worst spaces that we had: dark basements with low ceilings and bring them into one location so that our guests can come to a nice inviting humanizing space and be treated with respect and dignity.”

Church officials said that although economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic caused some delays in completing the project, those challenges have also meant that more people than ever are in need of essential services.