Better Together: The Power of Collaboration

Dylan Novacek February 3, 2020

Congregational Spotlight: St.Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Edina

Written by Dylan Novacek, Content Specialist 

“We are better together than we are by ourselves,” Jackie Sullivan said with the conviction born of experience.

At St.Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Edina, parishioners support each other in giving back. Jackie has been bringing the issue of homelessness to the forefront of her congregation since 2013. As a leader in her congregation, she inspires volunteers like Marillene Allen to take action.

“I think St.Stephen’s is unique in the fact that there are so many self-starters in our congregation,” said Marillene, a member of St.Stephen’s who has been an advocate since 2016. “I am often amazed at what everyone is doing in our congregation.”

“Because of our work on 66 West (youth supportive housing in Edina), we brought the issue of the affordable housing in the suburbs to our congregation,” added Jackie. As a Beacon collaborating congregation, St. Stephen’s was very involved in the completion of 66 West.

Jackie began to reflect on significant experiences she’s had at 66 West. “When the first residents at 66 West were moving in, I was very involved in gathering donations of the items each new resident would need to create a cozy new home, such as housewares, bedding, and toiletries. Our congregation joined others in making and donating beautiful quilts; residents could pick the one that caught their eye – having a choice was a new experience for many of the youth. While several of us were working in Dale’s Closet (the donation room), one of the new residents came in with her quilt wrapped around her and was modeling it for us. She was so happy and proud. Seeing her so confident and at home made me feel very blessed to be part of 66 West.”

As they continue to support the vision that all people have a home, St.Stephen’s recently began partnering with Good Samaritan Church in Edina to host families for Beacon’s shelter program, Families Moving Forward.

“Volunteering and hosting spreads the message to our congregation,” Marillene noted. “A standout experience I had volunteering was when I brought a shepherd’s pie for the families in the shelter program. Seeing them enjoy a home-cooked meal and how much they really appreciated it made me glad to be part of the work Beacon does.”

“We are a congregation that loves doing dinners together,” Jackie commented. “And now we are taking what we love and sharing it with the families we host.”

As we aim to provide this warmth to families in need, there are still families out there nightly who need home. Through the collaboration of our Beacon volunteers and congregations, we help build homes.

“Home is safety, love, and warmth,” Marillene paused, thinking about the comforts of home. “A good home has to be supportive and accept who you are.”

“It is the place where a sense of well-being is developed,” Jackie added. “I love that Beacon helps families find safe homes. And I love that Beacon gives us so many ways to live out our faith.”

“I view myself as a foot soldier for Beacon,” Marillene said. “I go down there and I am pointed in the right direction. It helps to have someone who guides volunteers through the process. Beacon really enables us.”

Through collaborating with Beacon, parishioners at St.Stephen’s have a structure that gets them involved in meaningful action. As they get involved people truly see the positive impact the gift of home can bring.

Jackie and Marillene are among many parishioners at St.Stephen’s who believe in home. Through working together, hosting families, and advocating for sustainable housing, the parishioners at St. Stephen’s know the importance of giving back. This congregation serves as another example of the power that faith communities have.  

“Working with Beacon has brought us together and made us more aware,” Jackie said. “I want to make sure the leadership grows. It is our community, and we work together.”