Fighting Hunger, One Child at a Time
by Jeff Revels
The food donated throughout the month of July allows Conway Cares to help hungry children.
WHAT IS CONWAY CARES?
Conway Cares began on March 7, 2011, the day after my wife Karen and I saw the feature on CBS’ 60 Minutes titled “Hard Times Generation”- focusing on childhood hunger in America, and specifically, children from Seminole County Florida. The next day, Karen called the principal at Shenandoah Elementary and asked if there were critically hungry children at their child’s school. The answer was "Yes." Beginning Friday of that week, we sent bags of food home with 40 children. Now, three years later, we have not missed a Friday afternoon. Conway Cares is serving over 150 children weekly in three schools and when we have additional food, we assist more schools. That's over 5300 packs of food each school year. Our First Pres Life Community Group started around the same time as the 60 Minutes report, and immediately got behind the project: Pete & Kris Leveille, Greg & Wendy McNeill, Bill & Carol Malfitano, Mike & Bev Stark, and Don Washburn. It is truly a group effort and now, a community effort.
For the first few months, we worked from our homes, storing the donations there. Then, a couple at First Pres offered storage space for us, which was amazing, and allowed us the room to keep growing. We were there for over a year and then approached by Servant's Heart, an organization in Conway that has similar goals, though broader than serving school children. After speaking with them, we realized that the partnership would be beneficial to all of us, so we moved to their warehouse, which also had volunteers to assist with sorting and bagging. Servant's Heart is a 501(c)3 organization, so we now accept cash donations and purchase food at Second Harvest Food Bank at drastically reduced prices, allowing us to really stretch our donation dollars. We now have about 10 permanent drop-off locations in Conway, as well.
We have really grown together as a group through this project, with different small group members taking on different aspects - donations, bagging, distribution, etc. Our biggest challenge is making sure we have enough food for 150+ children each week, but God's grace, has always been there and we make it. The group has had to juggle very real daily and weekly tasks to keep the ministry going, along with their regular jobs and responsibilities. We've persevered through busy times and life's challenges by being there for each other and taking on more responsibility when we can. Mostly, we pray about it when we hit an obstacle and God always makes a way. We show up and God does the work.
Several times, a few other First Pres small groups have met to help sort and bag, and that's been a wonderful help and encouragement. The next level of involvement is to have groups or individuals to help us get more donations of food or money to purchase food from Second Harvest Food Bank. With more help to promote the cause, they could bring in even more donations and help more children.
But, in the meantime, we continue to collect donations, sort, pack, and deliver food each week...for the children.