Why I'm Missing Cincinnati This Year

Guest blogger Stevi Cook talks about the twice-a-year trips we take to Cincinnati to work with the Washington UCC church there, and why she is missing her trip this year. 

This week, our youth and chaperones would have been heading to our sister church, Washington United Church of Christ (WUCC) in Cincinnati, Ohio for our summer mission trip. I have been lucky enough to be a part of this mission trip, as both a youth and chaperone. As a youth, I attended in 2008 and 2010 and as a chaperone since 2016. Going to WUCC is a highlight of my summer, just like it is for so many.


Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, WUCC is still feeding children this week, and all summer. They deliver lunch and next-day breakfast Monday through Thursday, which are the meals they would have received during Summer Program. On Thursdays they take weekend food. They are continuing to feed

40 children, even though the Summer Program couldn’t happen. They are also receiving packets of crafts, art supplies, games, jump rope and sidewalk chalk. They are also still feeding the community and offering take-out meals for adults who need a good meal.


I’ve been talking to my dad recently about WUCC, and he said this. “I feel bad. I supported you two (my brother and myself) in soccer and in band. I went to every game and competition. But I didn’t show up the same way for WUCC, which meant just as much to you two. I wrote a check and that was it.” He wishes he would have engaged us more in conversation about WUCC, and encouraged us to think about them for the rest of the year. So I’m encouraging you -- don’t just think about WUCC twice a year. Think about them often. Think about them while you are buying school supplies for your child, and perhaps buy a couple of things to donate. The WUCC kids need the same supplies your kids do. Think about them while you are walking through Target and you pass a toy on clearance. Buying toys on clearance is a good way to save money and help these kids have a magical Christmas. How else are you going to be able to buy 30 fidget spinners for 40 bucks?


Also, think about donating. WUCC is old and gives so much to the community. Your monetary donation means so much. St. Peter’s is sending $1,000 from our missions Reserve Fund to Washington UCC in Cincinnati. If you would like to make an additional donation to support Washington UCC, please mail a check to:


Washington UCC
2950 Sidney Ave
Cincinnati, Ohio 45225


Want to know what I love about WUCC? Here's what I remember and I want you to know.


Washington United Church of Christ is located in a neighborhood riddled with poverty. The church acts as a beacon of hope in the community, providing meals to the community throughout the year as well as occasionally offering people a place to shower. WUCC is an old church, and when you sit in the sanctuary, you can see stained glass

windows on either side. Walking up to the sanctuary you have the choice of two staircases, designed so men and women would not have to walk on the same staircase. The windows aren’t always sealed; in the summer, it’s hot and in the winter it’s cold. I have a memory of candles in the sanctuary bent over, the wax unable to stand the heat. There is no A/C or heat in the sanctuary.


During the summer we have two main jobs: help with the summer program and work projects. WUCC puts on

Source: PolicyMap.com

a free summer program, a day camp. Kids signed up for the program are ensured two hot meals Monday through Thursday. On Tuesday they get dinner as well. This program supplements the food they would receive during the school year on free and reduced lunch. During the program, we are given a buddy. Our buddy becomes our best friend for the week. We do activities with them, sit with them at meals, and make sure they take only one paper towel when using the bathroom. Once the kids go home, we start on work projects. As a youth, I dreaded this part, now I love it. These work projects are projects that we are asked to do around the church and the community, sometimes we find the projects ourselves. These projects can be: deep cleaning the floor/walls/bathroom /kitchen/bedroom/stairs/sanctuary/freezer/fridge/pantry/really anything and everything, organizing whatever we can find, weeding, painting inside and outside, demolishing a house, painting a house or helping a family move. Whatever is needed, we do. My favorite work project is cleaning the kitchen floors; it is a disgusting and fun project.


On Monday afternoons we do an activity to help us understand what it means to experience poverty. Sometimes this means given a scenario where you and your group members are a family with little or no income. Your resources are limited, you might not have a car nor live near a bus station. With your money and governmental funds, you have to plan out a week's worth of food. Sometimes you might only have access to the gas station, or a food pantry that doesn't have fresh food. After the activity, we discuss it. It’s a wonderful activity that helps us understand what these kids are going through.


On Tuesdays, when we go to the pool, we play with our buddies in the water or at the playground. Then we come back and eat dinner with our buddies. As our buddies leave we set up for the community meal. Members of the community come in and eat. Sometimes they come through the line buffet style, sometimes we serve them as if in a restaurant.


On Wednesday afternoons we go to a Men's Homeless Shelter where we pass out snacks and have the opportunity to talk to the residents. One year, an amazing two-hour discussion occurred once we got back to the church. This discussion was started by the young people in our youth group.

On Thursdays we go on a field trip, such as a farm, the zoo, the aquarium and once, the University of Cincinnati's football field.


On Fridays, we do work projects from breakfast until dinner, with a break for nap time and lunch. For dinner we go to Camp Washington Chili, a local Cincinnati chili place open 24/6. After Camp Chili, an intense game of hide and go seek is played for hours before bed. Every night we read a bedtime story and discuss our day. These are some of my favorite parts of the week. This is where I get to see how intelligent and amazing our youth are. I can remember being a youth at Cincinnati, and it blows my mind that these kids are so much more insightful than we were. We really have some great youth in the church, please get to know them.


During the summer there are 5 interns that work at WUCC, I think of them as the head counselors at a camp. We are lucky to have had 3 St Peter’s young adults be summer interns. Lizzy Grubbs, Jackson Cook (my brother, proud sister over here) and Maddie

The youth group handling a work project.

Gantt. I know two more newly turned young adults were wanting to join that list this year. Often the summer interns are experiencing WUCC for the first time, so it’s so amazing that so many of our youth want to be there for a whole summer with limited A/C.


During the winter we participate in Gifts to the Manger. This is a program that allows 100 families to do their Christmas shopping for their family for free. This program is unique in that the family does the shopping, not a stranger.

Stevi and Rebecca Lockwood, Associate Pastor for Missions and Education


All year, WUCC will collect donations of toys and clothes. The family will choose for each child:

  • 1 large toy
  • 1 small toy
  • 1 stocking stuffer
  • 1 game for the whole family
  • 1 educational item (coloring book, chapter book, and so on)
  • 1 outfit
  • 1 pair of socks
  • 1 pair of underwear
  • 1 hat
  • 1 pair of gloves


St. Peter’s UCC is in charge of the toy section. I like to think of myself as in charge of girls' toys, since I've been doing it for so long. I have yet to miss a Christmas in Cincinnati since around 2008. This short weekend is chaotic. Saturday morning we bring up all the items and organize them.

We figure out what we still need and the other church there with us Suffield UCC (from Suffield, Ohio), goes shopping. We then send the kids to go play while a few adults stay behind to get everything in place. A couple of us then might take another trip to the store to get more things we didn’t know we needed. On Sunday we open the store. It’s busy and stressful and so much fun. Time flies by, and before we know it, it’s time to tear down the store and get ready for dinner. I have wonderful memories from this weekend. Memories of us having snowball fights in the streets; playing football in the field; seeing a parent rush up to me asking if I had a Hannah Montana Barbie, and the look of joy on his face when we did; seeing the parents of the kids

The Christmas Shop at Washington UCC


we have during the summer; and checking in on our buddies from the summer. It’s a pretty well known fact about me that I love Christmas. A lot. But it would not be Christmas for me, if I couldn’t go to Cincinnati at Christmastime.


It's not really feeling like summer, either, since we can't go to WUCC for our Summer Mission Experience, but we can still make a difference. I'll be doing just that -- supporting WUCC - in various ways. How about you?




Stevi Cook has been a long time member of St Peter’s. She is a youth group leader and serves on the social media team. Stevi is an elementary school counselor down in Franklin Community Schools. Stevi loves reading, hanging out with her dog, Harry Potter and counting down the days until Christmas.