What is the purpose of this Sunday's collection at First Purchase African Methodist Episcopal Church in To Kill a Mockingbird?
In Chapter Twelve of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jem and Scout accompany Calpurnia to a Sunday service at the First Purchase African M.E. Church in the Quarters.
After the first round of collections is brought to Reverend Sykes, he empties the black enameled coffee can that has been used as the collection vessel out onto the table and examines the pile of coins. Much to Scout's amazement, the Reverend demands that the churchgoers contribute more and that, "we must have ten dollars."
The entirety of this charitable collection will go to supporting the family of Tom Robinson: his wife, Helen, and their children, who Helen is now singularly responsible for taking care of since Tom has been jailed on charges of rape.
Reverend Sykes demands that no one leaves the church until the proper sum has been donated, and, thus, "[s]lowly, painfully, the ten dollars was collected."
Calpurnia decides to take Jem and Scout to the First Purchase AME Church because Atticus was out of town, and he had not given Cal any specific instructions about going to church. Cal was worried that if she allowed the children to go alone, they would get in trouble again, just as they had when they tied Eunice Ann Simpson to a chair in the furnace room. So, Cal made sure the kids were spruced up, and she took them to her church. On this Sunday, Reverend Sykes announced to the congregation that
"The collection taken up today and for the next three Sundays will go to Helen--(Tom Robinson's) wife, to help her out at home."