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Their 11-day campaign ends Nov. 11.

Two area churches are in the stretch run of a national campaign by the United Church of Christ that aims to raise food, awareness and funds to fight hunger.

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Immanuel United Church of Christ hopes to collect 111 items of food, write 111 letters to local representatives about hunger and raise $1,111 as part of the Mission 1 campaign.

St. John's United Church of Christ had set its sights on collecting 1,111 items of food and blew past that target Nov. 6.

The Sunday collection yielded 418 food items, bringing the total to 1,372 as of the morning of Nov. 7.

Mission 1 connects the two churches with others across the country in an effort to collect 1 million food items, write 11,111 letters to Congress and raise $111,111 each for hunger-related ministries in the United States and in eastern Africa, according to the UCC website.

"Mission 1 is completely initiated by the national UCC, and we were very willing to participate," said Beth Cantrell, pastor of Immanuel UCC. "A lot of people don't realize how many (hungry people) there are."

Immanuel UCC's efforts got a boost from its annual flea market in its Fellowship Hall, at 1905 Edmondson Ave., from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Attendees were asked to sign form letters that will be sent to local representatives, said Amy Dunham, a member of the church's Service Committee.

On Nov. 7, the church had already collected 222 food items, Dunham said.

That means the church will donate at least twice as much to the pantry of Catonsville Emergency Food Ministries than they had planned.

The church had also collected 48 letters as of Nov. 7 and needed 63 more to meet its goal by Friday.

Dunham said she couldn't say how much the flea market raised but noted that the church has met its goal with $1,111 donated.

The money raised will benefit the UCC's national fund called Neighbors in Need, which uses the money to feed the hungry nationally and internationally, Dunham said.

By having the donations sent to people locally and much farther away, Dunham said the church is fulfilling a motto based on a verse in the Gospel of John in the New Testament, "That they may all be one."

"(That means) everybody is working together to support everybody," Dunham said. "We're trying to help our brothers and sisters internationally and to help our brothers and sisters locally because no one is more important than another."

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St. John's United Church of Christ focused its efforts on a single goal, said Jennifer Sowell Glover, the church's pastor.

"It's a national project, but what I like about it is all of our efforts stay local," Sowell Glover said, noting the collection of food will be split among Southwest Emergency Services in Arbutus, Catonsville Emergency Food Ministries and the Westside Emergency Men's Shelter on the Spring Grove State Hospital campus.

"It's young. It's old. It's everyone," Sowell Glover said about those impacted by hunger. "We should care about this because these are our people going hungry."

On Oct. 30, the final Sunday before the drive officially started, St. John's parishioners went home with empty grocery bags to fill with food, bring back and stack on the altar before Sunday's 10 a.m. worship service.

Last year, the church at 1000 S. Rolling Road had a similar drive in which they attempted to collect 1,111 pounds of food.

Sowell Glover said it fell only a few pounds short because some of the food had expired and was removed.

"If you get really close to your goal, it just inspires you to do better next time," Sowell Glover said. "When we set a goal like that, I think people really rally around that number."

"Given not only the generosity of the church but also of all the community groups, I think we'll make it."

To conclude the 11-day campaign on Nov. 11, the group will have a prayer vigil at 11:11 p.m. in the Inner Harbor, Cantrell said.

This story has been updated.

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