Citing health issues, and “an honest appraisal of what I can do as a board member,” a longtime clergyman is leaving the governing body of the city’s foremost provider of help to the poor. The Rev. Arthur Yost resigned from the board of the West Haven Emergency Assistance Taskforce (WHEAT) after a 35-year association with the group.
The retired cleric has been a pillar of the organization, originally begun by the West Haven Clergy Association in the 1980s. His resignation letter was accepted and by the WHEAT board at its Feb. 16 meeting after expressing his desire to resign to WHEAT Executive Director Rose Majestic.
In his letter, Yost reflected on his 35-year association with WHEAT and was proud of its growth from a small operation to the vital agency it is today.
“WHEAT has grown as a vital source of advocacy for the needs of many of West Haven residents who are having food insecurity, along with advocacy for those facing financial hardship including housing and fuel payments. I have witnessed its growth from a small operation, occupying little more than a closet space in The Community House to three moves to ever larger facilities in West Haven to perform its mission to West Haven residents and the larger community,” he wrote.
That growth has been reflected by an acknowledgement by the community of the needs of others. From collecting in churches around the city, organizations, municipal events, and student drives help stock the shelves of the Washington Avenue-based organization.
Yost fondly remembered many such events.
“I have wonderful memories from painting walls to giving out bottles of wine at public dances that were fund raisers for WHEAT,” he wrote. “I enjoyed trying my best to be an ‘artist’ at paint socials, enjoying local talent attending karaoke nights. One of my favorite fundraisers was one I chaired – “SHOW(ing) Up For WHEAT” in April 2019, held at The Church of the Holy Spirit. The talent that participated was superb from all walks of life in West Haven.”
But what he remembers most is the growth of the organization from a church-based outreach to a community agency, run by members of the community for the betterment of their neighbors.
“When I first came on the board, I was a clergy representative’ and most of the membership consisted of members from local churches. Over the years, the board has transformed into a community board with many needed skills sets that suited WHEAT’S expansive needs,” he wrote.
Since his retirement from active ministry in 2007, Yost transitioned to a community member, remaining it West Haven, and becoming part of many outreaches sponsored by WHEAT. However, he believed it was time to step down from those activities.
“I have appreciated this present Board as well as the many board members who have served in the past. I will continue to support WHEAT financially, with pickup of food donations and other requests for support,” he wrote.
During his time, Yost had a key role in the establishment of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner before the WHEAT board turned it over to its present group, and a had a soup kitchen established at First Lutheran Church.
The former pastor of First (now First and Wesley) United Methodist Church on Second Avenue, where he served for 20 years (1987-2007) Yost established himself as a member of the community early on in his pastorate. He continued that community work after his retirement, settling in West Haven with Ann, his wife of 36 years.
In a phone interview this week, Yost said he was always concerned with the poor and their ability to feed themselves.
“I’ve always been focused on food security in my ministry,” he said. At one time we had a committee of people at First Methodist who would get donations to give to various organizations. I used to go to Trader Joes daily to pick up things until the corporate office wanted to know what that guy was, and moved to give to agencies rather than individuals,” he said.
A graduate of Hunter College, City University of New York, Yost received his M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary and was ordained as a Methodist minister. He received a second master’s in counseling from Southern Connecticut State University.
At 87, he still takes to the pulpit on occasion, not only at First and Wesley UMC, but at a church in the Woodmont section of Milford.
He restated he is not walking away, he will help when he can, but not in any official capacity.
“I consider this more of a retirement than a resignation,” he said.
Which ever it is, his presence will be missed by the many organizations and agencies he is helped for more than three decades.