Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 3:33 pm | A Few Clouds 58º


Free Methodist Church’s Cliff Drive Care Center Reaches Out to Young and Old on the Mesa

Congregation's outreach programs center on community well-being and nurturing relationships

As dozens of preschoolers filed out of the chapel at Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara, they passed the Rev. Denny Wayman’s office and called out hello to the pastor.

Free Methodist Church was buzzing with activity Wednesday as the kids headed to lunch and then nap time. It’s all part of the preschool program offered by the church, just one of several outreach efforts under way on its campus at 1435 Cliff Drive on the Mesa. The programs are all housed under the umbrella of the Cliff Drive Care Center.

The church has been quietly serving the community since 1955, and the preschool opened its doors in 1963. Noozhawk caught up with Wayman and his wife, Cheryl, who joined the church in 1976 and felt that ministries centered on community well-being were needed. In an age when both parents often have to work, Wayman said caring for children “seemed like an obvious way to care for the community.”

One of the first things the church started was an after-school program, in a time when those programs were rare.

“Schools weren’t doing it, nobody was doing it,” Wayman said.

The church also started a summer camp at the same time.

“Since then, it’s just exploded,” he noted.

Free Methodist Church pumps thousands of dollars a year into these ministries to make them viable, Waymand said.

“We’re probably the least expensive preschool around because it’s a ministry for us, not a business,” he said.

Wayman said the preschool is more multiethnic than it’s ever been, with children coming from all over Santa Barbara.

“There’s a statement in Acts where they told the church to look after the orphans and the widows,” he said, adding that in the current culture, caring for children and the elderly are huge needs.

That led to Free Methodist Church’s next outreach effort, a senior luncheon, which it has sponsored for about three decades at SHIFCO, a 107-unit Santa Barbara Housing Authority property that provides low-income housing for seniors right across the street from the church.

“It’s been a vibrant program,” Wayman said.

Cheryl Wayman said the biggest needs they’ve seen for seniors are good nutrition and relationships.

“A lot of seniors will go a whole week with no one ever giving them a hug,” she said.

Having someone to visit them in the hospital and celebrate birthdays and other milestones has been great for the seniors, said the Rev. Colleen Hurley-Bates, who oversees the program. The meals are offered on the first and third Thursdays of the month and on a donation basis “so no seniors are turned away if they can’t afford it,” she said.

Once a month, Hurley-Bates speaks on spiritual topics while another speaker will speak the next time about issues relevant to seniors.

Free Methodist congregants also deliver lunches to seniors who are shut-ins at SHIFCO.

“I feel very enriched by their journey,” said Hurley-Bates, adding that seniors are given the chance to share life stories, and even a few jokes, in front of the usual lunch crowd of about 70 seniors.

Since 1995, Free Methodist Church has operated a counseling center, which also grew out of looking at the needs of the community.

“It’s great to provide good child care, but if their parents are splitting up, that’s so difficult and harmful for the kids,” said Cheryl Wayman, one of two licensed therapists on staff. The counseling center is nonprofit, and allows people to pay on a sliding scaled based on their income. Substance abuse, co-dependency, PTSD and marriage and family counseling are all among the topics they’ve addressed at the center.

One of Cheryl Wyaman’s most rewarding moments at the center came after counseling a couple who had had marital problems and were contemplating divorce. After working with them for a year, “We were invited to their recommitment ceremony, and that moment was so rewarding,” she said.

Click here to donate, participate or volunteer in any of Free Methodist Church’s programs, or call 805.965.1338. Connect with Free Methodist Church on Facebook. Follow Free Methodist Church on Twitter: @FMCSB.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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