CLEVELAND — As we approach the height of the holiday season and those to-do lists grow, so will stress levels, because the “most wonderful time of the year” can often be the most challenging.
One church congregation, all too familiar with uphill battles, is trying to help people cope with the hustle and bustle.
The doors to East Mount Zion Baptist Church were unlocked on a December day.
It's a big deal for Pastor Brian Cash.
"This entire building didn't have heat for almost three winters," said Cash.
The boilers in the now-113-year-old building failed back in 2019, and it needs major structural repairs.
"Water was getting in and you could see how deplorable this space had been," said Cash.
It's a similar struggle that other historic churches along the Euclid corridor have faced over the years.
"Many churches have sold and left," said Cash.
East Mount Zion, in the heart of the Cleveland Clinic campus, was almost added to that list and likely would have been demolished.
"When it's gone you only have memories," said Cash.
But Cash was unwilling to lose the beautiful sanctuary and the safety net it provides.
"Many of the support systems in the community are gone," said Cash.
Its lifeline program, which serves more than 200 families a month, continued despite no heat.
"They said pastor, we're not stopping," said Cash.
It's just part of the outreach happening at East Mount Zion.
"Within this space is a spirit that gives power and gives restoration and health to those who need it," said Cash.
With a new boiler system in place, thanks to more than $100,000 in donations, the East Mount Zion congregation can worship in warmth, and they're now welcoming community members to join them.
"Give us guidance, give us the words to say when we encounter those who come into this space," said Cash.
Every Wednesday in December, the sanctuary will be open for those in need of self-care.
"It provides me sanctity, it provides me healing," said Cash.
After seeing patients and staff at the Cleveland Clinic periodically stop in for an escape, Cash wanted to extend the invitation community-wide.
"There is no need for you to deal with it on your own. Coming to this space gives you that extra help and hope during this season can be very stressful for you," said Cash.
If you want to stop by the church, it's located at the corner of East 100th and Euclid in Cleveland.
The doors to the sanctuary will be open Wednesdays in December from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
And here's why the focus on mental health is so important this time of year: according to the American Psychological Association, more than a third of Americans feel their stress increase over the holidays.