Grace Community United Methodist Church, located at 5708 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Lithia, has launched a new ministry to support military families in the community. Military Connect at Grace Community is designed to connect military families with the community while supporting them throughout the chaos of living a highly mobile lifestyle.

The Military Connect program now offers military families items they may need while transitioning and a sponsor program with resources for those new to the area.

Pastor Erick Ashley believes the ministry was another way to share the mission of his church.

“We started this program because our mission at Grace Community United Methodist is to create a community where all people can experience God’s transforming grace. We want to be a church for all people, no matter what, and our military families are a part of that community,” he said.

Lithia and the surrounding areas have the second highest military family population in the Tampa Bay area. Whether it’s due to the highly rated schools or beautiful neighborhoods, military families represent a large percentage of the families in the community. Military Connect offers support to local military families and their unique, highly mobile, family lifestyle.

Erin Lorenz, a military spouse and member of Grace Community, wanted to help other families like her own.

“We started this program as an attempt to reach military families in a very real way. One thing Grace was proud of was their military connection. In reality, the connection was simply that they had members who were either retired or active duty. There was no specific outreach for military families. A few of us came together to determine what we could create that would allow Grace to truly say they have a military connection.”

Military Connect at Grace Community offers a Loan Locker for those families who are in the process of moving to the area or are transitioning out. With blow-up mattresses, cooking pots, utensils and more, the Loan Locker is available to provide the comforts of home throughout the chaos of moving.

Grace Community also offers a sponsorship program to match up new military-connected youth and their families with members of the church who have similar interests. The sponsorship program is a great way to find the inside scoop on the community and meet new people. It is known for its robust youth program Refuge, which includes military-connected kids who are looking for those first new friends and a safe place to connect.

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