Pittsburgh. It’s the second biggest city in Pennsylvania, at 58.3 square miles and a population of 305,412. The home of professional sports teams— the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates —and a good deal of art and culture, the steel city is a small metropolis. Eleven miles away, in a little, 0.4 square mile borough called East Pittsburgh, 1,800 people reside. This is also where St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church was founded in 1919 and continues to keep its lights on today by fundraising with scrip.
John S., the coordinator at St. John’s and life-long congregation member, saw scrip as an interesting way to raise money, and decided to start a “one-man” program in 2005. “I got the ball rolling at St. John’s after I witnessed the GLSC fundraising potential at my daughter’s school,” John said. “The school secretary who ran their program was an ultra-wiz at organizing their program and ensuring scrip sales’ credits were properly assigned. With some database control, I was able to track orders and sales for our parish and keep it manageable.”
For the then 86 year-old church, scrip was a “‘no cost’ mechanism to address ever increasing costs, which was also appealing to our parishioners,” John said. “We have a high percentage of seniors in our membership and they simply cannot open their wallets as they once did without hesitation.”
Scrip fundraising was the best option for St. John’s, whose membership has slowly been on the decline like many small churches across the nation. Their congregation now sits at around 75 people, whereas when John was growing up in the church, there were hundreds of members worshipping and partaking in the Orthodox tradition. From that group, about 25% of the members participate in scrip fundraising, although anyone can purchase. “During the Christmas holiday season, orders of scrip from member’s friends and extended families also are received,” John said.
St. John’s makes the most of this participation in allocating funds. “The funds are completely deposited into the treasury for use with supplies, utilities and other pressing parish needs,” John said. “The funds are also used to support the ‘Needy Fund,’ which supplies grocery, food, and medication scrip cards for the neediest members.”
In addition to supporting the needy fund and aiding with maintenance fees, the scrip program at St. John’s has helped go beyond their community in East Pittsburgh. John mentioned, “We’ve sponsored our children to attend summer camps, we’ve sent members to Alaska and other parts of the country to teach and be taught, we’ve contributed to weather relief efforts like New Orleans rebuilding projects, and rendered support to mission start-up churches.”
While scrip is a big contributing factor for the funding of these activities, St. John’s parish members also “hold a number of events through the year: Calendar Dinner Parties, Raffles, Bingo, and all the usual suspects in order to raise funds,” John said. “I participate in just about all of the events when and where assistance is needed. Everyone pitches in.”
This sentiment holds true not only from a fundraising aspect, but for all church happenings. “We have a lot of unselfish people– many retirees –who devote their time as labor to maintain the building and small grounds. Like many older parishes in decaying urban environments, our church is one of the few bright sights of hope for a better tomorrow,” John said. “As beautiful as the building and grounds may be, it is the Divine Liturgy, teachings of the church, traditions of the generations of people of the parish and more that I see must be preserved. Scrip helps us do that.”
Know that every parishioner purchase is a valuable contribution to your parish no matter how seemingly small it may be. The proceeds from a single scrip card may represent but one candle in the sanctuary that would not be there otherwise. Every dollar is important; let first time buyers and the infrequent participants feel as important as the regular participants."
Location: East Pittsburgh, PA
Coordinator: John S.
Enrollment Date: June 2005
Scrip Program: Classic