Ask any volunteer who has served with us at Saturday Servings, and they'll likely tell you that they feel they were blessed more by the experience than those they met and served. That's because volunteering at these events is far more than slinging hash and getting your halo shined. And most folks realize that the moment they step out of their comfort zones...praying with strangers, holding hands with skin colors unlike your own, hugging the unbathed, trading your shoes for someone's with holes, or biting your tongue instead of complaining about how miserably hot or cold you are when you know the person whose plate you're filling doesn't have a home to escape the weather when the last soul is served. And by some miracle, these same volunteers keep returning to serve, and they bring their coworkers, neighbors and friends. Join us?
At our weekly Saturday Servings event, we serve a hot meal to 200-300+ homeless or poverty-stricken neighbors. Meals are prepared and served by local churches and local businesses. At these events, in addition to a hot meal and fellowship, we provide tents, sleeping bags, clothing, toiletries, canned foods, health screenings, bike repairs, and assistance applying for benefits. These events are held every Saturday...regardless of weather. Setup begins at 1:00. We have an opening prayer at 2:00, and serve until 3:30ish. Cleanup begins at 3:30. We usually have everything packed in the truck and ready to head home around 4:00. We like to end each event with a brief recap and a prayer of thanks.
In November of 2017, we began creating confidential profiles on the households we serve, to allow us to better understand their needs and where we might provide assistance. These profiles show us who needs health insurance, housing, jobs, and shelter. Since 2017, we've created profiles on over 3,000 men, women and children so far. Tragically, over 400 of them indicate they are experiencing homelessness.
In 2016, volunteers from our partner churches and businesses purchased, prepared and served 3,639 delicious hot meals. In 2017, they served 6,469 meals. In 2018, they served 11,565 meals. And in 2019, they've served 10,739 meals.
Canned Goods Distributed
Our Mo Hope Mobile Pantry provides each member of a household 2 cans of proteins, 2 cans of veggies, 1 can of fruit, and 1 starch. When available, we provide fresh fruit, veggies, and bread. In 2018, over 57,800 cans of food were distributed. And in 2019, we distributed over 53,600 cans.
Our Mo Hope Mobile Pantry provides each member of a household a bag of toiletries intended to last a week. Each bag contains a roll of toilet paper, tooth brush, toothpaste, comb, deodorant, soap, shampoo, razor, and lip balm. In 2018, over 11,000 toiletry bags were distributed. And in 2019, over 10,700 bags were distributed.
Servings are held at the Brookhill Azalea Shopping Center 5300 Chamberlayne Rd. Across the parking lot from Food Lion.
At our Ask the Nurse table, Nurse Barbara and her team of Nurses provide free health screenings, wound care, and answers to questions about medical problems our friends are experiencing. They frequently have to refer friends to Emergency Rooms due to their blood pressure and blood sugar readings, and that sometimes means a call to 911.
Our Bible Study led by Bean is open to all who wish to discover who God, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are, and what it means to be in relationship with them. Whether they've never heard of the Trinity or were raised by nuns, this gathering accepts our guests where they are in their journey. Those who participate on a regular basis receive their own NIV Bible with jumbo print and red letter text.
Bill the Bike Man and his buddy Archie run our onsite Bike Shop. Together, they've dovetailed their passion for bicycles and for sharing the Gospel into an amazing ministry that provides donated bikes that they refurbish and present as reliable transportation to those on a long waiting list. They also make repairs and tune the bikes they gift. In the two years since the Bike Shop began, over 80 bikes have been gifted!
Guest birthdays on the last Saturday of every month. Kathie the Cupcake Lady bakes delicious cupcakes and distributes them to everyone whose birthday was in the current month. For many, this is the only time their birthday is acknowledged. Especially if they're homeless.
David oversees our Clothing tables which distributes recently cleaned, in-season clothing and shoes. These items are only accepted between 1pm - 2pm at our serving location, to allow David and his team of volunteers to sort and place them on the tables.
Our Benefits Coordinator, Maureen, assists guest applying for replacement photo IDs, birth certificates, and Social Security cards. She also helps them apply for Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, SSDI, SSI, and other vital benefits.
Prayer Warriors from numerous churches staff our Let's Pray table, and provide personal prayer with guests who request it. Bibles and inspirational literature is also available.
Betty Jo, our Director of Pantry Operations oversees an incredible team of volunteers who rarely miss a Saturday serving guests at our Mobile Pantry, where they receive free canned goods, fresh fruits & veggies, fresh bread, and toiletries. For many, the food they receive means not having to miss meals.
Department of Medical Assistance Services is one of the agencies we partner with to bring access to things like Medicaid and other benefits to those we serve.
It is awesome to see two groups like those from Bank of America and Lifepoint Church meld together as one to serve a hot meal and love on our friends. They did a fantastic job yesterday, and by all accounts, the soups they served were delicious! Thanks to those who cooked. And to those who joined us to serve yesterday…a very special Thank You! For serving in nice weather can sometimes be challenging, but nothing like what you endured yesterday to be God’s hands and feet!
As a general rule, it feels about 10º colder in the winter than whatever the forecast is for that day where we serve, and yesterday was no certainly no exception. Bbbrrrr! Even with multiple thermal layers, I somehow found myself chilled most of the afternoon. And then as we began packing up, it began to rain a little. It didn’t take long for it to penetrate those layers and reach my shoulders and back, and then the shivers came. I share that, not to complain; for I expected every bit of it the moment I left my warm home, but to paint a picture of what many of the 156 struggling friends who joined us endured. Most of them didn’t have a car with a heater that worked and heated seats to quickly take away the chill. Some rode a warm bus back to whatever they call Home, thanks to the 35 bus passes we provided; purchased with your donated funds. Most of them walked back to wherever they came from enduring the wind and cold rain. Several made their way back to the comfort of their tents; some likely changing into dry clothes, but some likely had none clean to change into. And a few; far too many ---as if ANY number is okay, had nowhere to go to escape it.
An older man approached me as we were setting up to ask for our help. I told him I’d have to speak with him after things got going, and to get some of the hot potato soup in the meantime. When I spoke with him near the end of the event, he shared that he and his lady friend are disabled and have been living in a motel by the Diamond ball park. Although their combined Social Security checks are enough to rent a room or tiny apartment, they can’t save enough to cover the deposits. Paying $285 per week for several months put them in arrears at the motel, and they were finally evicted three weeks ago after paying back most of what they owed; leaving not enough to stay longer, and the motel owner showed no more mercy. Friday night, the man searched dumpsters for cardboard and something to cover them with as snow and sleet began to fall. He placed cardboard on the ground beneath them, and two shower curtains over them as a rainfly. He told me he prayed for God to give them a place to stay. As he shared their plight it began to rain. We paid $285 for a room for one week at a nearby motel.
An elderly woman who sleeps in her car outside pulled up after everything had been packed up and we were preparing to leave. She stood shivering in the cold rain as David, Pam and Tom worked to provide her with food and warm clothes. Legalistic hearts might have told her she had arrived too late, but their hearts modeled Jesus’s as they showed love and compassion.
At the same time, Archie and Bill were still working on the last couple of bike repairs…long after most volunteers had gone home to thaw. Most Saturdays, they are the last to leave, as someone almost always arrives late with their bike in dire need of repairs so they can get to work or back home. Again, modeling Jesus’s heart.
My hope is that those who got cold and wet yesterday will have gained a better appreciation for the plight of many whom we serve, and that those reading this summary will as well. You willingly endured harsh conditions yesterday to serve and give Hope. 156 people endured those same conditions in search of a Moment of Hope…and found it through your fellowship, food, repairs and prayers.
Thank you Father God for another great day of serving!