The First Lutheran Saturday Outreach Program (FSLOP) held at and in partnership with First Lutheran Church has grown steadily with average weekly attendances of 150 adults, children, and volunteers. It addresses the needs of the whole family and has several key components: Literacy Training (ESL) with adults; educational activities with preschool children; Growing Days (sports, crafts, folkloric dancing, and tutoring with older children); lunch for the family; presentations concerning family issues and interactive health and exercise classes for adults; and Special Outreach Events for program participants, their extended family members, and friends. The Special Outreach Events with an average of 300 people in attendance celebrate Valentine’s Day and President’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Hispanic Heritage Month, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
In the summer of 2003, LSS/SC Long Beach/South Bay staff met with Hispanics from the community, Lutheran Church members and leaders from congregations and community organizations to plan an effective approach for Hispanic Ministry. Many of our area Lutheran Churches are now being challenged with the increase in the Hispanic population in Long Beach and Los Angeles County to develop ministry and outreach with Hispanics. From many discussions and sources we learned that the best approach with Hispanics is to address and serve the family as a whole since the family is the central core value of the Hispanic culture. Later in the summer of 2003, LSS staff met with First Lutheran Church leaders and members, and the program design now in place was accepted and implemented.
The Special Outreach Events are certainly a highlight of the program. Entertainment, lunch and programs with over 45 Hispanic program participants preparing and serving the meal; setting up and decorating the tables; and providing clean-up and maintenance. The programs consist of children dressed in colorful costumes performing folkloric dancing; singing and piano music provided by teen-age children; and presentations made by Literacy Training (ESL) students concerning topics such as “What are we thankful for at Thanksgiving?” or “What is a good Mother at Mother’s Day?”
Our First Lutheran Saturday Outreach Program (FLSOP) Christmas Celebration held on Saturday, December 5, 2009 provided blessings beyond our greatest expectations. Over 1,600 program participants, their family members, and friends from the community attended the event. This is a dramatic increase in attendance from previous outreach events and last year. We have been blessed to have had no major problems with these events and much cooperation and goodwill. The activities of the Christmas Celebration represented the culmination of efforts of many people who contributed their time, talents, and treasure to the preparation and implementation of the event. Fifteen area Lutheran Churches from Long Beach to Inglewood contributed gifts, youth and adult volunteers. Hispanic students from the University of California (Riverside) and several other community volunteers participated in the event along with the FLSOP Participant Committee. Both of our area Thrivent Chapters, the West Los Angeles Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the South Los Angeles Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, provided tremendous help with funding for the meal, supplies, and presents.
The First Lutheran Saturday Outreach Program has much support from area Lutheran churches, youth groups, womens’ organizations, and Lutheran schools. Both of our area Thrivent Chapters, the West Los Angeles Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans South Los Angeles Branch, have provided tremendous help with funding for the meals at the Outreach events. Students from California Lutheran University, Concordia University, and Concordia Seminary (St. Louis) have volunteered and participated in the program. The First Lutheran Saturday Outreach Program has the participation of over 15 of our area churches (both LCMS and ELCA) from Long Beach to the South Bay.