A small group of Long Beach area churches — and one angel of a foundation — are ready to give nearly $250,000 to more than 30 smaller, struggling churches to help their congregations.
There are haves and have nots in houses of worship, just as there are haves and have nots in houses in different parts of Long Beach, according to Pastor Eric Marsh. And that separation has become more pronounced since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Marsh said.
Marsh pastored at Grace Brethren of Long Beach for 18 years, then at Parkcrest Church for another six, and where he is now.
He's also the lead pastor at the Long Beach Church Collective, a new group created to help the struggling churches in and around the city. With the help of Carl LaBarbera and his Kingdomworks SDG Foundation, More than $225,000 has been raised since May. Applications are being accepted now for grants of $7,000, plus more help, from churches in the greater Long Beach area.
"The first day the pandemic hit, 15 churches lost their meeting place when LBUSD (Long Beach Unified School District) revoked their permits," Marsh said. "We had 58 pastors at a meeting, and we started a campaign — Churches Helping Churches."
Marsh said more than 30 churches will receive grants of $7,000. All those churches need do is to raise $1,000 to match the $1,000 set aside for food distributions. The other $6,000 can go to operations or other programs that will help the people of those churches.
"We didn't know how bad it was," Marsh said. "Some of these churches have an annual budget of $85,000. And the downturn in giving is an average of 37%. These are churches in the hardest hit areas — central Long Beach, west Long Beach, north Long Beach."
So the Churches Helping Churches campaign began. But it didn't take off until Carl LaBarbera decided to give Marsh a call.
"The timing was really good," LaBarbera said. "Our foundation (it is a family foundation) exists to support other charities. I had heard about the Churches Helping Churches challenge… I decided to give Eric Marsh a call. He has the network."
LaBarbera told Marsh the Kingdomworks foundation would match whatever the churches raised, dollar for dollar. Then he said he would add another $1,000 specifically for food if the recipient churches could match the amount. The churches could find outside donors or even conduct a food drive and collect $1,000 worth of food to meet the match.
Marsh said that 12 churches stepped up and donated nearly $100,000. Other individual donations have been — and continue to be — made. He said the collective would give out the $7,000 grants to churches until the money runs out.
Participating donor churches are Grace Community Church of Seal Beach, Antioch Long Beach, Bethany Church of Long Beach, Parkcrest Christian Church, Grace Long Beach, Kings Church, Long Beach Christian Fellowship, The Garden, Light and Life Christian Fellowship, Cornerstone Church, All Saints Anglican and Revive.
LaBarbera also is chair of the board for World Impact Ministries. That agency provides a training called Trauma Facilitation, and LaBarbera is offering to foot the bill for providing that training to any of the churches receiving grants.
"Trauma training is important, especially now," LaBarbera said. "With the pandemic, there's so much trauma people are going through — losing jobs, being isolated, family members sick. It's an important way to help."
Marsh said that at the end of last week, 15 applications had already been turned in. Marsh said the simple applications shouldn't take more than 20 or 30 minutes to complete. A review panel will rank the applications, and awardees should be determined in two to three weeks.
"We know we need to get the money out there," Marsh said. "The need is great."
To apply or for more information, go to www.lbchurchcollective.org.