We regret we are unable to accept new or prior volunteers at these events due to Covid-19 social distancing guidelines and out of an abundance of caution for the many we serve who have weakened immune systems. We are eager to have you join us in the future.
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 or 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, cold, or wet you are when you know the person across from you whose styrofoam plate you're loading up with spaghetti doesn't have a home to escape the weather like you will once the last soul is served. Serve with us often, and you'll begin to experience and appreciate all that God is doing through and for our guests and our volunteers. To those who have served with us often and are unable to for now, we sure miss ya! And we look forward to a day when we can have you safely resume!
At our weekly Saturday Servings event, we used to serve a hot meal to 200-300+ homeless or poverty-stricken neighbors. Due to the challenges created by the Covid-19 virus, we have chosen to err on the side of extreme caution with changes intended to protect our most fragile neighbors. Meals that were once prepared and served in person by local churches and businesses are now dropped off just prior to serving, and left for our core team to distribute. In addition to a meal and socially-distanced painfully-brief fellowship, we still provide tents, sleeping bags, toiletries, canned foods, bike repairs, and assistance applying for benefits. We are eager to resume our Ask the Nurse, Let's Pray!, and clothing distribution tables once a safe way to accomplish that is found.
These events are held every Saturday...regardless of weather. Setup begins at 12:30, and we serve until 3:30 or until we run out of meals and groceries.
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 emergency shelter. Since 2017, we've created profiles on over 4,000 men, women and children so far. Tragically, over 600 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, 6,469 meals were served. In 2018, they served 11,565 meals. In 2019, 10,739 meals were served. And in 2020, 12,954 meals were served, despite pausing operations for three weeks when the pandemic first struck. Since resuming these events on April 11th, the numbers of guests joining us has surpassed pre-Covid levels and continues to climb. 2021 began with 372 meals being served on January 2nd.
Canned Goods Distributed
Our Mo Hope Mobile Pantry usually provides each member of a household one days' worth of food...2 cans of proteins, 2 cans of veggies, 1 can of fruit, and 1 starch. In response to the Covid-19 virus, we have increased to two days' worth of food. That's 10 cans per person per week at $1 per can. 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. In 2020, we shifted from counting cans of food to counting meals that can be prepared with the food we distribute. That equated to 104,979 meals last year, and 20,448 meals as of March 6th in 2021. The increase in the amount of food we provide has been made possible in large part because of our Neighborhood Canned Food Drive program, created in response to impact on grocery prices and availability our neighbors are experiencing because of the pandemic.
Our Mo Hope Mobile Pantry also progvides toiletries to our guests as most of those items can't be purchased using SNAP funds. Prior to COVID, we provided each member of a household a bag of toiletries intended to last a week. Each bag contained 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. In response to COVID and social distancing challenges, we chose to cease pre-bagging hygiene items, and now offer primarily toilet paper, with other items provided upon request.
Servings are held at the Brookhill Azalea Shopping Center 5300 Chamberlayne Rd. Across the parking lot from Food Lion.
We began 2020 with our seatbelts buckled, as ten of the first eleven Saturdays served record crowds. Then COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. After pausing operations for three weeks to assess risk factors and modify our processes accordingly, we resumed serving on April 11th, 2020. Our weekly tallies quickly reached normal levels over the summer. By the end of August, we were back to serving record crowds often, and then weekly, and God keeps growing them. The 372 neighbors we served on January 2nd, 2021 (in orange on the chart) was our tenth largest tally in 262 events.
While we are serving quite a few new neighbors, the majority of this growth is due to an increase in those we haven't seen in a while rejoining us. Only God truly knows if this trend and the huge crowds we are currently serving will continue, and therefore, we must plan for it to continue growing as it has. We are currently accepting new groups to prepare the meal for 400+ people or partner with an existing group to share the expense.
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 comrades Archie and Rod 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 103 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.
Saturday Servings Summary…3/6/2021
Thanks to Broadus Baptist Church for preparing the lunches for our guests! A smaller crowd of 293 enjoyed their choice of two PB&J or bologna sandwiches, two bags of chips, a fruit cup, and a dessert. The meals left over were taken to The Fix Ministry in King William. Funny how the last six months have conditioned me to think of a crowd of 300 guests as being small, especially when that was the largest tally ever for a Saturday in March…so far. In the coming weeks, we will be holding a meeting of the groups currently preparing meals and those interested in doing so. If your group is interested and hasn’t already done so, please connect with Shari@mo-hope.org (804) 913-9118 to ensure you receive an invitation.
Young “D” had another seizure yesterday; torn backpack bulging with food on his back, and grocery bags wrapped around his wrist as he prepared to leave on his bike. He was just a few feet away from us when this episode struck, sending his bike to the asphalt and D crashing on top of it. We rushed to secure and comfort him until it passed a few minutes later. D is ok and didn’t require medical attention as he often has in the past. His bike, however, was not so lucky, and will require at a minimum a new rear gear changer and more TLC from our Bike Shop. Rod and Archie invest considerable time refurbishing and repairing bikes, not only on Saturdays, but at home throughout the week as well, and cover most of the expense for tires and tubes and parts out of their own pockets. If you would like to support our Bike Shop ministry, you can do so via PayPal and selecting Bike Shop from the dropdown menu. www.paypal.com/donate?hosted_button_id=3VFHDRWVZTMUN
Not everyone who needs help will ask for it, and some won’t accept it when it is offered. So was the case yesterday when Betty Jo offered a new folding grocery cart to “C”. She saw it in a store and immediately thought of C who usually has several trash bags in tow filled with what remains of her world. As disappointing as that was, we’re not surprised. It took more than two years to move beyond one-word replies, and even longer to persuade her to accept a motel stay to get her indoors. C is truly grateful for the help we provide her. It shows in her eyes when we talk. Eye contact is a recent thing too. But she still struggles to accept our help…or that fact that she’s actually homeless. I watched her stop across the parking lot to fix her grip on the bags of lunch and groceries we gave her and the other bags she usually carries and was already struggling to manage.
Our mobile pantry distributed enough groceries yesterday for each guest to prepare six healthy meals for everyone in their household. That’s roughly 1,700 meals, and that’s a lot of food to hand out in two hours! So far this year, we’ve distributed enough groceries to prepare over 20,900 meals! This food is available to us through partnerships with Feed More, special pricing from Farm Fresh and other supportive grocers, and food drives hosted by partner churches, businesses, and neighborhoods. Thank you! If you would like to help by hosting a drive, please connect with BettyJo@mo-hope.org (804) 913-9151. You can support our Saturday Servings events using the same PayPal link above.
Thank you, Lord, for equipping us to serve and guiding us along the way!