NEW ALBANY — As a local family grieves the loss of a child, a New Albany church is stepping up to provide financial support in their time of need.
After a Southern Indiana teenager died in a car crash a few days ago, St. Mark's United Church of Christ in downtown New Albany decided to help the family with their funeral expenses, since the family was worried they wouldn't be able to fully pay for the grave or funeral. On Monday, senior pastor John Manzo posted a request on Facebook for donations through the church's Pastor's Relief Fund, and only a day later, he has already seen an outpouring of contributions from church members and others in the community in support of the family.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the church had already raised over $1,400 for the family, exceeding the goal of $1,200. The church is still accepting donations to provide additional aid, according to Manzo, and all donations will go directly toward the family. Now, the family will be able to pay for the funeral in its totality, and the church will be able to help them with other needs.
"I'm really overwhelmed by how generous people have been," he said.
Manzo declined to provide the names of the family or further details due to privacy issues. The family does not attend St. Mark's, and he does not personally know them, but a local agency referred the family to him. He said the funeral home was also working to keep the costs low for the family as they mourn the loss of a beloved daughter.
"The people who were referring them were looking for some place that could help," he said. "And because they knew me, they reached out to me. I've been here for 18 years, so I know a lot of people in the community."
Manzo was moved to see so many people come together to support the family in such a short period of time, saying it shows the level of caring in the community. He said he saw generous sums from individual donations, and many shared his Facebook post about the donations. He said St. Mark's has some of the "biggest hearts" he's ever seen.
"I just think it's really great," he said. "It just reminds me that people in the community are really good. This church has a long history of doing a lot of mission work. Generally if there's a need and I say such and such needs help, usually we're able to help them very quickly."
Manzo said while he has donated his services for funerals before, this is the first time he has used the Pastor's Relief Fund to cover the costs of a funeral. He has used the fund to help people with their utilities, and they often partner with nonprofits such as Hope Southern Indiana and the Salvation Army to support community members. Manzo has used the funds to pay for hotel rooms for people facing homelessness.
St. Mark's also provides community assistance through programs such as its weekly soup kitchen and clothes closet, along with its annual health fair.
"We try to do a lot to assist people in the neighborhood, because we are a downtown church, and because we're a downtown church, we take serving the downtown very seriously," he said. "So people spend a lot of time and effort in caring for the less fortunate, or sometimes people who just have a series of bad luck or something."
Manzo hopes to send a simple message to the grieving family through these donations.
"You're loved," he said. "You're loved."