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.
The 225 guests we served today takes us over 10,000 meals served so far this year, and our friends from Gethsemane Church of Christ have lovingly served a large portion of them. And today’s menu included fried chicken, green beans, ham rolls, and desserts. We’re truly grateful for this partnership and the Joy you bring each time you serve! Thank you!
Marie moved here from Haiti in 1982 for a chance at a better life. She endured a harsh existence in her hometown of Port-au-Prince; a place I’ve visited twice. We spoke briefly about her home country, and her current struggle to survive. She was so grateful when I gave her a new set of warm thermal underwear and a bus pass to get back downtown. As I got up to tend to other guests, she thanked me for listening. That stopped me in my tracks and caused me to wonder how many of those we serve are craving to be heard. Tonight, Marie will sleep in the Cold Weather Overflow Shelter.
In the midst of all the hustle & bustle of the day, I had the rare opportunity to take in the many moving parts that comprise our Saturday Servings. There was a common theme no matter in which direction I gazed; our Start Here table, Meal Serving tables, Ask the Nurse table, Let’s Pray table, Clothing table, Bike Shop, and certainly our Mo Hope Mobile Pantry…so many smiles and so much agape love shared by our amazing volunteers with our struggling neighbors, and so much laughter made possible by the many rapports built over many weeks, months & years by volunteers who have sacrificed so much time they could have spent elsewhere, so that they could serve as Jesus calls each of us to do for those He called the least of these. Surely, God will thank each of you one day. Until that day, please accept my heartfelt thanks and love.