First Congregational UCC Reflects on a 28-year Partnership with Embrace Living Communities

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Embrace Living Communities is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a Christian denomination with over 5,000 churches across the United States. Through this affiliation, several United Church of Christ churches in the communities Embrace Living serves have been generous partners to the organization. One such partner is First Congregational United Church of Christ of Sarasota, which has faithfully supported Embrace Living’s Orchard Place of Sarasota community for 28 years.

First Congregational UCC was founded in 1954 and has a reputation for reaching out to mission-focused organizations locally, nationally and even internationally to ensure they are living out their mission to commit to seeking, understanding and carrying out God’s Word and Will. James Crumel, a church member, has been instrumental in leading the partnership between the Church and Embrace Living Communities. He has served on the Sarasota Area Housing Board for 15 years.

“One of the things our church is big on is affordable housing,” says Crumel. “It’s an issue in Sarasota. The quality of the housing [at Embrace Living] is excellent, and so it serves a need for people with disabilities in our community.”

One way that First Congregational UCC has supported Orchard Place of Sarasota is financially. Apart from regular monetary donations, the church runs a program called “Love Gifts” where special funds are donated to organizations in need for them to purchase necessary items they may not otherwise have been able to afford. Through this program, Orchard Place of Sarasota was able to purchase a freezer to store food donations from local food banks.

They have also supported Orchard Place of Sarasota by hosting an annual Fat Tuesday pancake dinner for the residents (though they have been unable to do so this year and last year due to the pandemic). The church sees this as an opportunity to get to better know the residents they are helping, some of whom are members of the church. They also have participated in the community’s holiday celebrations.

“We see [fair housing] as an essential need, and that’s what our church is founded on: outreach and taking care of folks who need help,” says Crumel. “Without places like Embrace Living, it’s possible more folks would be homeless, lying in the streets. It’s a critical need, and we’re trying to alleviate some of that.”

Embrace Living is thankful for the love and support of First Congregational UCC and all of the neighboring churches that have devoted time, money and energy into supporting and sharing Embrace Living’s mission.

“[Embrace Living] is an organization that looks at the whole person versus just providing a room for somebody to stay in,” says Crumel. “It’s more than affordable housing. It provides a community.”

If your church or organization is interested in partnering with Embrace Living, visit our website to find a community closest to you.