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.
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, and 23 of the next 25 Saturdays had record guest tallies.
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. 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.
25 of the first 28 Saturdays have had record guest tallies compared to those weeks in prior years.
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 5/29/2021...
Today was an awesome day to serve! I know a dozen cold and soaked team members who would have preferred less wind and rain, but it made for so many moments of laughter as the canopies frequently dumped water on us and unsuspecting guests, and we all held onto them so they wouldn’t take flight....the canopies. A special kind of serving experience that instills or rekindles empathy for our friends living outside and fighting to stay dry and warm this weekend, as we stood wet in the raging wind for just a couple hours. I am incredibly grateful for Tom, Sydney, Shari, Dave, Maureen, Susan, Bryan, Rod, Kathie, Bill, and Betty Jo for serving with me today! And thanks to Ann & her son for bringing coffee near the end...our guests and our team were so appreciative!
Thanks to the Genesis Group at Cool Spring Baptist Church and Hope Community Church of the Nazarene for preparing the lunches today! 168 of our neighbors enjoyed them. We are truly grateful!
Kathie the Cupcake Lady returned after a long pandemic-inspired hiatus. She wished every guest going through the line a Happy Birthday and offered them her super special homemade cupcakes...choice of sugar or sugar free recipes. Even in a rain storm, people were grinning as they plucked their treat from the tray. Welcome back, Cupcake Lady!
Kathie’s hubby and our Bike Shop founder, Bill the Bike Man, also joined us after the same long hiatus. He brought along a few bikes he had refurbished to give to Rod & Archie to give out in the coming weeks. God didn’t wait long to work through Bill, as He sent a man with a bike that required far more TLC than could be done in the driving rain. That man left with a much sturdier bike that Bill had brought after he adjusted it for him. Welcome back, Bike Man!
Thanks to our Prayer Warriors, Bryan and Susan, for pitching-in bagging lunches and restocking the grocery table, instead of staffing the Let’s Pray table. With the wind making it a challenge to keep canopies from becoming kites, we had to squeeze everything under just two canopies, and our guests didn’t appear interested in sticking around to chat or pray once they got a cupcake. Welcome back, Susan!
A guest with a 600+ blood sugar reading a few weeks ago returned and thanked us for urging her to go to the emergency room that day. She was reluctant, but Nurse Barbara was insistent. The hospital staff treated her and got her number down to a scary 500 before releasing her. Well done, Nurse Barbara!
Thank you, Lord, for another awesome, cold, rainy, windy, hang on to the canopy before she flies, kind of day to serve!