While listening to Anne Cann talk about the homeless in Boca Raton, I notice something right away: she says the word “love” a lot.
“We try to express God’s unconditional love,” she tells me when describing the services her nonprofit provides.
“Love and community are the first steps to healing,” she says later.
“It really is all about love,” she stresses near the end of our conversation. “The people who seem most difficult to love are the people who need it most.”
Given Anne’s love for the homeless (and all people, it seems), it’s no wonder that when she and ministry partner Dayton Van Houten started a nonprofit in 2013 to help the homeless, they named it Love Boca Outreach Ministries.
Love Boca partners with churches and community organizations to provide much-needed services to the homeless in Boca Raton. The nonprofit’s first project was holding a shower and laundry day at First United Methodist Church in downtown Boca, a ministry that continues today. Love Boca now works with four churches, two temples, and the Junior League to provide a range of services: meals, clothing, shoes, health care, dentistry services, and more.
St. Gregory’s joined Love Boca in 2014 by offering Harris Hall as a place to hold a dinner for the homeless on the fourth Sunday of each month. Volunteers from St. Gregory’s assist with the meal and provide donations of food, money, and time. “Our St. Gregory’s volunteers are very valuable partners,” Dayton says.
Hosting the meal at St. Gregory’s also provides evangelism opportunities. Many of the guests attend the 6 p.m. Eucharist after their meal. “Offering a high-calorie, nutritious meal is always the main focus,” Dayton says. “But by coming to the church, we also have the opportunity to engage spiritually with them.”
“Having the meal at St. Gregory’s fosters the sense of community and fellowship,” Anne adds.
And that’s what Love Boca is truly about, she says: community and fellowship. “We provide human services, but more than that we provide community, acceptance, and belonging. By fostering relationships and connections, we’re creating a feeling of family in this community God has created.”
Love Boca also meets needs on an individual basis when possible. For example, if someone is work ready but is having difficulty finding employment, Love Boca can direct that person to willing employers. “We try to love them where they are and help them reintegrate into society,” Dayton adds.
Anne and Dayton both encourage St. Gregory’s members to get involved with the church’s fourth Sunday dinner or other service opportunities through Love Boca. “Doing ministry can be healing and spiritually nourishing,” Anne says.
A few of the service opportunities at St. Gregory’s include helping with food service and preparation, setting up and cleaning up Harris Hall, donating side dishes and desserts, packing take-away food bags, and simply engaging in fellowship with the guests.
Love Boca also needs men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, hygiene items, and gift cards the homeless can use to purchase food or other items.