Community Outreach

Like many churches, Woodland Hills values community service and coordinates opportunities for its members to participate in it, both in the local community and through domestic and international mission trips.

Local Service:

Woodland Hills began by trying to provide services to the local community itself. For example, they were running a food shelf out of the church. Congregants would drop off food, and community members would pick it up. This system had a lot of problems: food was stored upstairs, which required a strenuous transportation process; community members only found out about it through word of mouth; and some individuals would take more than their share of groceries, leaving fewer for everyone else.1

From situations like these, Woodland Hills decided that trying to run their own charity programming was not the most efficient way to make a positive impact on the community. Instead, they opted to partner with organizations that already do this work. Communications pastor Charley Swanson describes their reasoning, saying, “At some point along the way, I think we all realized that there are some experts out there that we can get connected to and partner with and be way more effective in the kinds of work that we want to do to serve the community.”2

Instead of trying to run a food shelf themselves, Woodland Hills now works with Merrick Foodshelf. Merrick has served the east St. Paul and Maplewood community since 1908 and partners with larger food security organizations like the Greater Twin Cities United Way and Minnesota Food Share to fight hunger in the area.3 Woodland Hills allows Merrick to use its facility with its convenient location, storage space, and loading dock, and recruits congregants to work as volunteers. The partnership has been tremendously successful; Merrick has increased the number of households it serves by 37% and also receives $20,000 a year from Woodland Hills in donations.4

  1. Charley Swanson, Discover Woodland Hills Information Session, March 24, 2016.

  1. Charley Swanson, interviewed by Lillie Schneyer, May 19, 2016.

  1. "Merrick Community Serivces," accessed June 3, 2016,

  1. Patrick Larkin, Merrick and Woodland Hills team up for food shelf success,”, May 24, 2015.

 Woodland Hills facilitates similar projects, including:5

  • Close to my Heart Preschool- nonprofit daycare preschool
  • Minnesota Ready- a government program that offers job skills training
  • Project Home Homeless Shelter- an emergency homeless shelter for Ramsey county families that is hosted by churches on a rotating basis
  • Homeless Response system- housing services for families coordinated with Catholic Charities, Ramsey County, and the YWCA
  1. "On-Site Partnerships," accessed June 3, 2016,

From the Congregants

Congregants highlighted the connections they see between faith and service, echoing the church's priority. Hannah says, 
"I love learning and I think that’s important, and the intake and sharing of knowledge is extremely important, but also adding to the authenticity of anything is the action behind it. It’s something I wrestle with all the time." 6
  1. Hannah, interveiw by Lillie Schneyer, May 15, 2016.