As the economy continues to crash, area churches look at ways to ease the impact - both for their members and the community at large.

Area church leaders look at collaborative efforts in working with other agencies, as well as assisting in ending the cycle of need and in the case of one denomination, a comprehensive welfare services program.

"I've been waging a war on consumer debt," said the Rev. Arron Swenson, of Pendleton's Cornerstone Community Church. "Debt is as big a form of bondage as alcoholism or anything else, so I've been preaching against debt."

Living Faith Church's pastor, the Rev. Dean Hackett, stressed the importance of being content with the basic needs of food, shelter and clothing being met.

"We're in a condition in America right now because we've been just plain greedy," the Hermiston pastor said. "We've been living in greed."

In spite of the strong admonition, Hackett said the church needs to reach out to people.

"The church has the responsibility to help someone in the immediate crisis," he said

The Rev. Tim Van Cleave, pastor of Pendleton's Bethel Assembly of God Church, said for people experiencing financial difficulties and setbacks, it's important to ensure their necessities are taken care of. However, he doesn't want to contribute to the problem.

"It seems we always have people off and on who experience financial difficulty, whether the economy was good or bad," he said.

Van Cleave suspects he may get a lot of calls for help because of where his church falls in listings in the telephone book.

Swenson, too, pointed to the phone book as a catalyst for calls.

"Our ad jumps off the page," he said. "We intentionally made ourselves a target."

Hackett said it's a sad fact that some opportunistic people may target churches.

"I hate to admit they are there, but I learned pretty quickly early in my ministry," he said.

Cornerstone's Lost and Found program, which seeks to meet the needs of at-risk youths, has already served more teens this year than all of last year. In addition to youths, Swenson has received weekly calls from people needing help.

Swenson said his church gives regularly to the Salvation Army and has challenged other churches to do the same.

"We desperately need the Salvation Army in town because the needs are growing," Swenson said.

Van Cleave said having the Salvation Army coordinate assistance is beneficial, but it doesn't prevent his church from reaching out to people.

"I look at this whole community as my second congregation, not just the people of my own church," Van Cleave said.

Hackett said even though churches work together with Agape House, it's important to provide more. While getting someone through the current problem is a priority, Hackett said it's just as important to help people in the long-term.

"We intervene at the level that we can for the immediate crisis and also help them with the long-lasting solutions as well," he said.

On a larger scale, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has welfare services that include food and commodity distribution facilities, thrift stores, counseling services and employment services.

Ron Hendrickson, field manager for the Hermiston Oregon Bishops' Central Storehouse, said the program serves a dual purpose in contributing help to those in need and providing opportunities for people to help and serve others.

The 60,000-square-foot Hermiston facility provides commodities to be distributed from the 11 storehouses located in Oregon, Washington and Alaska.

Much of the food and commodities are made and packaged in canneries and processing facilities operated by the church, and a lot of the work is done by volunteers, Hendrickson said.

In addition to volunteers, the facilities have paid employees who are responsible to ensure product safety and quality.

"This program for the church started back in the 30s when they were dealing with the Depression," said Jeff Snell, president of the church's Hermiston Stake.

Snell said the church encourages self-reliance, so its focus would be to respond in a way to help people help themselves.

"We're there to sustain life, not lifestyle," Snell said. "We don't give cash. If people need help with bills, we would try to help them with commodities so they could pay their bills."

Hendrickson and Snell stressed the program isn't merely a handout, but recipients are encouraged to give back by cleaning a church building, helping a neighbor or providing other skills.

"We don't believe in giving something for nothing," Snell said.

Hendrickson said the trade-off results in people feeling good about receiving help.

Additionally, Hendrickson said, the church encourages its members to have a storage supply of food, water and money in case hard times hit.

"We encourage people to be prepared themselves," he said.

The church operates home storage centers where members can get help in packaging basic life-sustaining foods.

Programs are also available to teach people how to write a resumes and prepare for a job search, as well as employment specialists who have access to information about job openings.

"We encourage people to go to the employment office to find jobs, but these are companies that specifically call looking for employees," Snell said.

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