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 8,099 meals as of October 15th.
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. So far in 2019, we've distributed over 40,000 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. So far in 2019, over 8,000 bags have been 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.
As I woke at 3am this morning to let our dog outside, the wind was howling more than it did while we served yesterday. And that’s saying something! I imagine some of us who served our 248 cold & hungry neighbors were looking forward to getting back home the moment we stepped out of our vehicles at the Food Lion. I know I was. The 3 hours we endured the whipping cold winds were likely the coldest 3 hours of our Saturday. And yet, for many of those we served, the same 3 hours were the warmest of their Saturday.
Anthony shared that he prayed the overnight temps stayed below 40 degrees so the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter would be open…so he’d have a place to sleep inside. He recently started a new job, but doesn’t want his employer or coworkers to know he’s homeless, for fear they will treat him differently.
A female guest asked me if I had any bus passes, and I told her I didn’t. As she started to turn away, she said she needed to get back downtown to the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter for the night. She’s been joining us for several months, and somehow I missed that she’s homeless. She explained that she didn’t want anyone know her business, so she didn’t let us know. My heart sank. I handed her two bus passes and explained that I only had enough for our friends who live outside, and apologized for not knowing. Wish you could have seen her smile when I asked her if she wanted a hoodie and returned with a new pink one.
Don brought his friend Chad with him today for a hot meal and to stock up on supplies. Don introduced me to Chad Thursday when I met them near the train station downtown to give Don a few supplies. Don shared that he got into another fight yesterday when someone attacked him. He’s got several staples on the top of his head. An ugly reminder of how dangerous life on the streets can be. Both of them were grateful for the Mo Hope hoodies we gave them. They endured last night’s whipping cold winds and this morning in the sleeping bags I gave them Thursday, under the stars on concrete beside the wall near the canal, because they have too much gear to take into the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter, and they know better than to leave it behind.
Thank you to the Brightwell family and Bank of America volunteers who served the delicious chili that Janet & Tom made! By the end of the serving, three 16 qt. crock pots & four 8 qt. crock pots full of turkey were gone! Some were made with turkey, some beef, and some with beef & pork…all gone. Also all gone were the 100 bag lunches they prepared as to-go meals for those who just dropped by to grab food and go. Thanks to Marie Carter for baking brownies & cookies, and to Maxine & Pam for packing lunches! Thanks to our BofA friends for helping with the chili, and providing desserts and drinks! It was a great partnership!
We missed Nell & Warren Carter yesterday. Warren was hospitalized with stroke-like symptoms Friday, and though a stroke has been ruled out, a diagnosis has yet to be made. Please keep them both in your prayers! Nell is the reason Mo Hope has been so richly blessed to have Betty Jo, Tom, Janet, Sydney, Zakiy, and Joe serving with us all these years! She’s their Mom and Grandma, and she invited them to one of our Saturday Servings event.
Every day we serve has its God moments, and yesterday was no different. Bank of America needed 7 more gallons of sweet tea, and a guy pull up with…yep…7 gallons of sweet tea! And after we’d all packed up and headed home, and the Ashland police officer was doing paperwork because someone had rear-ended the Mo Hope Suburban Betty Jo was driving, they saw a dime on the ground reminding them “In God we trust” and we have Angels looking out for us. Praise God, Betty Jo, Sydney, and the other driver were not injured. Our vehicle will be fine.
To all who served yesterday, and all those who contributed or worked behind the scenes…thank you! To God be the Glory and Praise!