Presbyterians Today

JUN-JUL 2018

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26 JUNE/JULY 2018 | Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay spread quickly through social media with organizations posting pictures of little outdoor boxes with signs that read "Take What You Need" and "Bring What You Can." The blessing box offers free nonperishable food items, toiletries and other essentials for those in need, and is typically located on church property, available anytime anyone needs something. "We had an ache to do something to help feed our community that is like a food desert. There aren't a lot of food stores conveniently located," said Cindy Godbey, mission commit- tee chair. She first saw a blessing box in the nearby city of McKinney and brought the idea to the church. "It's a way that people who are in need can maintain their dignity, as the items are free for the taking and they can come when they want," Godbey said. The blessing box is refilled several times a week, not just by members of the church, but also by those in the community. Items include tooth- brushes, toilet paper, cans of tuna, boxes of macaroni and cheese and sometimes special-occasion items like Easter basket goodies. Dedicated last year on Palm Sunday during the church's annual community worship service, the box was placed outside the educa- tion building, where it can be easily accessed by those who want to donate and by those who are in need. "One thing about the blessing box is that you have to let go of control of who takes from it and go prayerfully about the ministry," said the Rev. Lisa Reece. Godbey added that the church often finds thank you notes left in the blessing box from those who benefit from it. Feeding God's lambs, literally The Presbyterian Church of the Palms in Sarasota, Florida, has found a creative way to stock its food pantry shelves by literally feeding God's lambs. The church feeds animals at the local Fruitville Grove Farm, and in exchange, the food pantry gets fresh produce from the farm, says Kathy Robinett, food ministry coordinator. The church's food pantry swaps about 200 to 300 pounds of day-old bread for about the same amount of fresh produce every week. The food pantry, open five days a week, serves about 80 clients a day, or about 400 weekly. "Sarasota is known for its afflu- ence, but it's become a place of tran- siency due to its desirable climate and location. We have immigrants looking to relocate, a number of people passing through, and a fair share of homeless people," Robinett said. "At times it's overwhelming. Your heart breaks when you see parents unable to feed their kids. We are always re- evaluating how we can help, working with as many agencies as we can." Kim White, the owner of Fruitville Grove Farm, says this partner- ship is a win-win for all involved. Her animals — goats, cows, horses, peacocks and rabbits — are happy to get the treat. And, she adds, rather than wasting the bread, it gets used. "The best part is knowing that I am doing my part to help those who are hungry by providing them fresh produce right from the farm, rather than processed food. I get a tremen- dous amount of satisfaction doing it," White said. The Church of the Palms' pastor, the Rev. Stephen McConnell, says that the 1,900-member church has historically had a heart for local mission. "What we've witnessed is the transformative power our ministries have had on those who serve. It changes us because we stare into the face of poverty," he said. "We hear people's stories and our view changes of the nature of human need and what the causes of poverty are. Our ministry reflects Christ, who minis- tered to one person at a time." Kitchen ministry Millwood Community Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Washington, has CRAIG GOODWIN Healthy cooking demonstrations are often part of the monthly food distribution at Millwood Community Presbyterian Church.

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