MONTROSE-Take a look at Grace Community Church, and what can be seen is a beautiful facility in a scenic location. Not visible to the naked eye, however, is the church’s strong outreach program, Extending Grace. Extending Grace brings the church and its resources to other locations in support of some of Montrose and Delta’s most vulnerable residents.
Minister Arnie Chavez is the face and heart behind the program, which serves four sites in Montrose and one in Delta—Extending Grace sites are located at the San Juan, Cottonwood, Green Acres and Northbrook Mobile Home Parks in Montrose and at Wide Acres in Delta.
“We help in any way we can,” said Chavez, who originally came to Montrose from Arizona to serve as Assistant Pastor at Calvary Temple, where he worked for eight years prior to joining Grace Church in 2012. Before deciding to make a career change, Chavez worked for many years in the heating and cooling industry.
“My gifts are evangelism and service,” Chavez said. “This is what I am supposed to be doing.”
Extending Grace is an unusual ministry in that it asks nothing in return, he added. It encompasses not only an after school program with snack and devotion on Thursdays, two youth groups, homework assistance, coat giveaways, vacation Bible school and a Friday night film night with free popcorn and candy. Volunteers have also built physical improvements that improve the quality of life for local youth.
“We just want to create a safe place for kids,” Chavez said. “There are always two adults present, and everybody who volunteers with us undergoes an application and background check. These are all provided so that everybody is safe.”
Support for the program comes from Grace Church, which has made the outreach a serious priority.
“Our volunteers come from Grace Church, and our funding comes from Grace Church,” Chavez said. “We have 20 to 30 volunteers who rotate and help; I started out part-time, and now I am full-time. I run all five sites.”
The Church has restated its strong commitment to the program this year, and is always seeking new ideas and new ways to reach people, he said. “This is an organized ministry,” Chavez said. “We advertise it by placing flyers on each trailer.”
Extending Grace began at the Cottonwood Park. “We own a trailer there, and at San Juan we use one of the small apartments. At Northbrook we use the Community Center. Once we got started at Cottonwood, we looked out and saw an empty field that needed grass and a swing set.”
Extending Grace volunteers have also helped to create community gardens at Anciano Towers and Sunshine Peaks Apartments in Montrose, he said, and fix broken gates in the communities they serve.
San Juan Park resident Eric Bauer, 12, said that the Extending Grace ministry makes an enormous difference for many people. “Arnie is a great man,” Eric said. “He has helped many families a bunch. If it were not for him, we would not have had a nice Thanksgiving Dinner, or nice gifts for Christmas.
“He’s an awesome guy,” Bauer said,
“We were seeing underserved neighborhoods,” Chavez said. “We want to help in any way we can, and we ask nothing in return.
“We just go out and give because it’s the right thing to do.”
Extending Grace can be reached at 970-249-5306.