Family's Loss Leads to Ministry Helping People in Need
Earlier this month, Good Shepherd UMC in Cypress opened its doors to 400 families in need and handed out thousands of bags of groceries. For those who could not find transportation to the church, volunteers drove donations to them. In all, 63,000 meals were distributed to 500 families.
Dr. Sterling Allen, Good Shepherd UMC’s director of worship arts, led the effort – all in memory of his late brother Reagan Allen.
Allen started a nonprofit called the Reagan Project in 2014, after losing his brother to suicide. Reagan had bipolar disorder and developed a drug addiction.
Allen said that the night of Reagan’s death, while trying to plan a memorial service, his family
decided to be honest about the suicide and drug addiction – and that choice eventually led them to create the nonprofit.
“We have never once regretted that decision,” Allen said. “We truly believe God has laid this path before us and, in addition to helping others, that our talking about these issues might just save a life.”
The Reagan Project began operations on the first anniversary of Reagan’s death. Each year, outreach projects are selected that reflect something that would have helped Reagan or a cause in which he was interested.
“Each year, on the anniversary of his death, we do a major project,” Allen said. “And it’s different every year.”
In addition, mid-year projects are planned to feed veterans at the VA Hospital and to reach out to the homeless on cold nights in Houston, providing blankets, coats, gloves and hot cups of coffee.
In 2015, the Reagan Project gave Starbucks Gift Cards to the HIV/AIDS ministry at Bearing UMC in Houston. The next year, 150 sack dinners were delivered to homeless camps downtown.
In 2017, the nonprofit delivered 200 hot jambalaya dinners to the homeless camps in downtown Houston, and the following year 400 breakfast tacos were distributed to veterans, their families, and VA Hospital staff.
In 2018, the Reagan Project became its own 501c3. The next year, 250 weeks of groceries were distributed to the homeless and single parent families of Harris and Waller Counties, all identified by Harris County Youth Services, Waller ISD Youth Services and Helping Hand.
The project was completed in conjunction with Good Shepherd UMC and brought 21,672 meals to individuals and families in need.
The effort was so successful that Allen decided to double number of families they would serve this January to 500.
The Reagan Project received donations from Good Shepherd, Cypress, and Cornerstone United Methodist Churches to assist in covering the cost of groceries. An additional 50 to 60 volunteers showed up on Jan. 8 to distribute the goods, welcome families and carry groceries out to their cars.
“It takes a lot to make this happen,” Allen said.
As an employee at the church, he is able to serve as a bridge between church volunteers and his nonprofit.
The projects take a full year to plan. For next year, Allen said, the hope is to expand the distribution points and involve multiple United Methodist churches in the process.
“This way, individuals can be in walking distance to receive their gifts,” Allen said.
Food insecurity continues to be a major concern in the Greater Houston Area, he added.
“The Houston Food Bank alone gives 104 million meals per year, and that’s not reaching everyone they need to reach,” he said. “There are 1.1 million people in the 18 counties served by the Food Bank that are food insecure. That means they may have meals on the table sometime, but not all the time. We want to help them bridge that gap.”
The event at Good Shepherd was bittersweet. Allen thinks about the tragic reason behind the occasion – as well as the great need for the work being done in Reagan’s honor
“This is the least we can do to honor his memory, to help people who have suffered,” Allen said. “Suicide is devastating. This project is all about taking small steps to alleviate pain and pressure, to hopefully stop that outcome.”
Allen added that there is a lot of pain in the Houston area. “We are constantly reminded of the need to do – and of how often we don’t,” he said.
Allen thinks of the stories of Jesus feeding thousands with limited resources. “We see Jesus feeding people in remarkable and enormous ways,” Allen said. “It’s a great example of what we’re called to do as a church. The need is definitely there. We just need to find ways to help.”
To learn more about the Reagan Project, visit https://www.facebook.com/ReaganProject/. Donations may also be made at Good Shepherd UMC. For more information about the church visit goodchurch.us.