Grant will help Aurora church's ministry serving neighbors

  • A family art painting class is led by Michelle Curiel, left, in a Wednesday Night Gatherings program at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora.

    A family art painting class is led by Michelle Curiel, left, in a Wednesday Night Gatherings program at Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora. Courtesy of Al Benson

Posted1/31/2023 7:51 PM

Wesley United Methodist Church in Aurora has been awarded a $2,000 grant to support its Wednesday Night Gatherings series, a ministry serving church neighbors.

The grant comes from the United Methodist Foundation of the United Methodist Church Northern Illinois Conference.


Michelle Curiel, Wesley director of Children and Families and Gatherings coordinator, made the announcement.

Launched in September, the Gatherings program -- featuring free dinners and family activities -- is held on first and third Wednesday evenings at the church, 14 N. May St. in Aurora.

According to Curiel, the grant will fund food expenses and supplies for after-dinner activities.

Most resources come from cash, food, and activity supplies donated by Wesley congregants.

Citizen Arts, a Wesley-based program, provides community-focused fine arts activities. It has contributed time and skills as well as supplies for activities.

Curiel coordinates meals and activities -- arts, crafts, games and music -- with assistance from volunteers.

The series continues Wednesday, Feb. 1, with a free supper at 6 p.m. and making Valentine's Day cards until 8 p.m.

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Curiel said Gatherings will continue through June and during the next school year.

She explained, "The goal of Wednesday Night Gatherings is for families to understand Wesley is a part of their community, a place where their children can be cared for and where parents can make new friends and connections. For our aging congregation, creating a welcoming space for children and young families is nourishing to the soul."

"Additionally, it helps us fulfill a commitment to intergenerational programming as we reach beyond our building to be in direct relationship with our neighbors," Curiel added. "These gatherings have fostered relationships with over 40 families in our neighborhood who benefit from WUMC food programs."

"We are committed to keeping our programming free for these families as we deepen our interpersonal relationships."

Curiel said summer 2022 programming at the church campus included three family outdoor movie nights; a seven-day arts camp that served 40 children, ages 4-11; and a seven-day science camp that served 45 children, ages 4-11.

Additionally, weekly activities for youth were held at Blackhawk Park, a block east of Wesley, in a partnership with Geneva-based Northern Illinois Food Bank's Meals on the Move program.


"As the youth picked up their lunches," Curiel said, "they gathered under a tent for stories, games, crafts and conversation.

"Over the summer, we were thrilled when parents joined us for play and community building and even joined their children at our arts and science camps."

Wesley United Methodist Church holds Sunday worship at 9:30 a.m. online and in-person at 10:30 a.m. The Rev. John Bell is senior pastor.

For information, call (630) 896-1033 or visit or

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