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.
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 ministry which was paused due to COVID. We will have big news about restarting this vital ministry soon…
Our Intake Manager, Maureen, managers our emergency shelter program and 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 10/16/2021…
Our friends from Velocity Christian Church did a great job serving the delicious ham and turkey sandwich lunches they prepared to the 325 guests who joined us Saturday!They were making lots of friends, and we look forward to them serving with us again soon.
A friend who recently gave Betty Jo $5 because God told him so, did it again Saturday…and once again, the person God sent who needed $5 arrived not long after.
We had quite a few new guests who are unsheltered, and most left with tents and sleeping bags, along with a list of resources. Overnight temps are now dipping into the 40s, and we are shifting to the winter sleeping bags listed on our Amazon wish list.
The Bike Shop was busy from the time Rod arrived, until he left. I watched him give a bike he had refurbished to a happy guest. Truly a labor of love. Thanks to those who support the Bike Shop with tires, tubes, chains, and other bike stuff through our Amazon wish list!
Thank you for supporting this ministry!