Habersham Connectional Ministry Gives Food 2 Kids
By Ansley Brackin
Communications Specialist for North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church
“When we come together we can do a lot more and we become close.”
Pat Foster proudly describes the work of her faithful team of fellow United Methodist Church leaders. Foster was in search of a local mission project in May 2013 for her connectional church group. Her pursuits lead her to Food 2 Kids: a home based organization and the thread that would tightly stitch Habersham Connectional Ministries together with their community.
Richard Chewning, Gainesville District Superintendent, piloted the connectional group of 8 United Methodist churches in 2012. His requirements were to serve missions, serve together, and meet regularly. Their first mission project was to provide meals to Stop Hunger Now. After their success, Chewning gave them a new challenge by asking them to work with a homegrown mission.
Foster set off to find a local project using their last endeavor as inspiration.
One of her first stops was CommUnity Thrift Store, a shop in Clarkesville that divvies their earnings out to several local charities. The business provided her with her next lead: The Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. From there she was lead to the school system and from there to Social Worker Michelle Blackburn who worked with the program Food 2 Kids to provide weekend meals to children with deprived home conditions.
Foster learned that around 65 percent of Habersham students are on free or reduced school meal plans. Until the summer of 2013, Food 2 Kids struggled with donations and reached a scarce amount of children. Blackburn keeps a long list of students, elementary through high school, who need food on the weekends for the school year. Discovering this need in May, Foster and her group of eager participants knew they had roughly three months to collect money for meals, but they only saw the time constraint as a reason to go full speed.
Habersham Connectional Ministries received their first big push after radio station WCHM heard of their effort and offered to run an ad for Food 2 Kids. “If something involves helping children… People are always willing to help,” shares Foster. With the radio ad alone, the team made around $7,000. They also gained a new partner who collected backpacks for local schools.
Soon, newspapers were eager to help by providing articles advertising the efforts of the Methodists’ new movement. “To see our name, Methodists,” says Foster, pointing to their headline found in The Northeast Georgian newspaper this June, “says to the community, ‘we are here.’”
The involved local United Methodist Churches are Alley’s Chapel, Alto Mt Zion, Clarkesville, Cool Springs, Cornelia, Demorest Methodist Congregational Federated Church, Ebenezer, and New Liberty.
The Habersham Connectional Ministries group hosted benefit after benefit, each bringing in mighty gathers of monetary and spiritual support. Some events include a youth-hosted car wash and an antique car show with a bluegrass concert. The ministry team found it easy to find hosts for these events. Places like Burger King and the Habersham County 9th Grade Academy were enthusiastically on board to aid in the local mission work. With each event the community eagerly attended.
“They saw the need, but they didn’t know how big it was,” Foster learned.
Every branch of the churches put in an effort, including the children during summer VBS.
Fridays for Habersham Connectional Ministries involve a special routine. The group dons neon colored t-shirts with the words “Bridges Faith and Service”. They go together to the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, pick up bags of food, and then deliver them to the schools’ counselors.
Currently, they have received $27,000 in donations to provide 110 kids with food for the weekends during the school year. The group only reaches kids in elementary school, but they have high hopes for reaching the rest of the school systems in the future.
While they are proud and surprised by the progress they made in three months’ time, they feel it is only a dent in the hunger issue that is now exposed in their area. Habersham Connectional Ministries along with their communities have larger goals for the coming years. They hope to hold more benefits and find a way to assist the children during the summer.
Do you minister to your food bank or school system? Do you wish to aid Habersham Connectional Ministries with their continued efforts? Tell us!