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To Kill a Mockingbird

by Harper Lee

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In chapter 12 of To Kill a Mockingbird, what is the purpose of the Sunday collection at Calpurnia's church?

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In Chapter 12, Scout and Jem visit First Purchase African M.E. Church for Sunday service with Calpurnia. Following the sermon, Reverend Sykes requests the morning offering, and the congregation put their coins into a coffee can. Interestingly, Reverend Sykes empties the can and counts the coins. He then tells the congregation that there is not enough money and that they must collect ten dollars. Reverend Sykes then mentions that the collection is for Helen Robinson and her children. Afterward, Scout asks Reverend Sykes why the congregation was donating money to Helen and her family. Reverend Sykes explains to Scout that Helen is having difficulty finding a job and the congregation must help her out any way they can. Nobody in Maycomb is willing to offer Helen Robinson a job because of the crime her husband is accused of committing. However, Reverend Sykes does mention that Link Deas might offer Helen a job. 

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The collection at Calpurnia's church where she takes Jem and Scout is for Helen, the wife of Tom Robinson.  That these poor members of a church without even hymn books would take up a collection for another of their community is in sharp contrast to Aunt Alexandra's Missionary Society in the very next chapter that sends money overseas to remote Africa not knowing whether the "charity" gets to anyone anyway. Also, it points out the hypocrisy of the ladies who "charitably" give to Africans, but are unconcerned about their neighbors who suffer. This action of the members of Calpurnia's church underscores the meaning of the aphorism that "true charity starts at home."

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