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Critical Time for Hands-On Outreach at MAPC

The Rev. Andy Smothers - May 20, 2016

Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church has a rich history in providing hands-on ministry to the poor, to immigrants, and to others in the Upper Eastside; however, we find two programs in critical need of volunteers.

Henry Sloane Coffin, former pastor at MAPC, was instrumental in this focus on outreach. Previously involved in urban ministry in the Bronx, Coffin agreed to come to MAPC if the congregation welcomed immigrants who lived east of the railroad tracks (now Park Avenue) into its worship and membership. Eastern Europeans (largely Czech) had settled in the Upper Eastside and were concentrated east of Third Avenue. Many were single women and were struggling with language, employment and education. Coffin believed MAPC was called to serve people such as these, and went door-to-door to encourage immigrants to attend the church. He further sent a wagon to collect children for Sunday School. In his tenure, pew rents, common in that time, were eliminated, so that immigrants could worship with the congregation. He set up classes to teach women to sew and men to be butlers, and MAPC was suddenly running out of space.

Today, part of Coffin’s legacy remains in the congregation’s current outreach programs. Our Outreach Committee oversees distribution of funds to approximately nine community organizations meeting the needs of the homeless, the food-insecure, at-risk children, prisoners, and the aged. The congregation gives money to assist with disaster recovery from Hurricane Sandy and occasionally hosts work teams.

The congregation feeds 80-150 individuals who are food-insecure each Thursday night. It hosts twelve homeless men every night of the week and throughout the year. Finally, it has provided volunteers to read to and complete art projects with at-risk children in East Harlem through the Learning, Education and Arts Program (LEAP).

Unfortunately, some of our hands-on ministries are short of the volunteers necessary to continue. Our Shelter has had to close on some nights, due to a lack of overnight volunteers. We’re currently contemplating whether we will need to transition back to a 5-night a week program–during a time when the number of homeless is reportedly up. Our LEAP program is without a coordinator and continues with 1-2 active volunteers. Without a willing coordinator and an increase of volunteers, this critical program to help at-risk youth may be discontinued.

Won’t you please help? At MAPC, we understand there may be a bit of anxiety in trying something new, but most volunteers soon find themselves very glad they stepped over the threshold; they find a gratification in helping others that they don’t want to give up! If you would be willing to volunteer in either of these programs and continue Coffin’s legacy to serve people such as these, please contact Andy Smothers at

Related tags: Outreach, Announcements

The Overnight Shelter enjoying a meal at the end of the day.

A meeting of the minds at LEAP!

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