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Fighting hunger, S.C. style

UMCs across state gearing up for conference-wide relief effort

By Jessica Connor

From spring hat luncheons to Pennies from Heaven buckets, United Methodist churches across South Carolina are getting creative as they raise funds to fight hunger.

The S.C. Conference of the UMC is calling on every United Methodist in the state to help put a dent in the hunger problem by participating in a one-day conference-wide hunger relief event June 11. The hunger relief day will be during Annual Conference, when more than 2,000 clergy and laity descend on Florence to do the business of the church. That day, the conference will host a canned food drive, plus a Stop Hunger Now meal-packaging event, with youth and adults teaming up in three shifts to pack more than 285,000 meals for the food-impoverished. Those who cannot travel to Florence are being asked to hold a hunger ministry event in their own local church that day.

The conference is almost halfway to its $72,000 goal for the Stop Hunger Now meal-packing, and churches are having some fun as they try new ways to raise money for the hungry.

The Rev. Rufus Snowden, who pastors the Fisher Chapel/St. Stephen Charge, Waterboro District, is one of many across South Carolina who is committing to help. St. Stephen UMC, Ridgeland, might be tiny with just 16 members, but the church has a very active food bank that feeds about 1,000 people a week. Members are called to help with the conference hunger event because they see the need firsthand, Snowden said.

People are hungry and need food,  Snowden said simply, noting the church gave a sizeable donation.

Conference Communications Director Matt Brodie said with so many ways to help, and with hunger impacting so many people, he is not surprised scores of churches have gotten involved in the conference effort.

It s the kind of ministry where everyone can find a way to get involved, from the youngest to the oldest to the poorest to the strongest to the weakest,  Brodie said. There is a place for everyone. 

Food for the hungry

Many churches are turning to a logical theme to raise money for hunger relief: food.

In addition to collecting canned goods to be sent to Florence June 11, Grace UMC, Charleston is planning a covered dish dinner with donations going to the hunger relief day.

Aynor UMC, Aynor, had a bread basket at the chancel rail for people to put their loose change in, and their United Methodist Women sponsored a chicken casserole lunch after church one Sunday, with proceeds going to the hunger relief day.

Wilkes Chapel and Bethesda UMCs, in the Hartsville District, is having a canned food drive as a competition between the Sunday school classes and each church, splitting the collection between Annual Conference and needy families in the neighborhoods of the churches.

Each church in the Lamar Circuit, Hartsville District, maintains a food bank, so they feel especially called to help. They plan to send food June 11, plus they have sent the conference a $300 contribution and are lining up volunteers to help with the meal-packing.

The Canaan-Sand Hill Charge, Walterboro District, is hosting three breakfasts at the Palmetto House in Summerville to help with hunger relief “ May, June and July “ plus they are sending canned food, money and youth meal-packers to Florence June 11.

St. Matthew UMC, Taylors, with the Greenville District, will present a Hat s Off Greenville Spring Hat Luncheon to benefit the hunger event. Set for 1 p.m. May 25, the luncheon features guest speaker the Rev. Angela Ford Nelson and costs $40/person. (For reservations or sponsorship, contact the church at 864-244-9200 or stmatthew1866@aol.com .)

Pamela Bennett Askew, who is organizing the spring hat luncheon, said she thinks it is so important for the faith community to be able to come together and have fun for a more than deserving cause.

We are putting so much effort into the Stop Hunger Now event for two reasons,  Askew said. First, as an organization, Stop Hunger Now s focus on alleviating hunger is tied directly to two of the four focus areas of The United Methodist Church: engaging in ministry with the poor and stamping out the killer diseases of poverty by improving health globally. Second, the first Stop Hunger Now event in Greenville that brought together more than 1,400 area volunteers and successfully packaged over 289,000 meals was a youth-initiated event. As such, we want to do everything possible to encourage our youth to stay engaged so the church itself can stay true to its mission of making disciples for Christ for the transformation of the world. 

Main Street and Pine Grove UMCs, McColl, and Anitoch UMC, Bennettsville, did a two-pronged hunger relief effort, collecting canned goods and staple foods for the food pantry at Hope House, as well as taking up hundreds of dollars in offerings apiece for the conference hunger event.

Christ UMC, Bennettsville, collected more than $600 and i
s currently collecting canned goods to feed the hungry. In addition, as an ongoing budget item, Christ UMC supports a food pantry and community ministry in Bennettsville year-round, and they have taken up special missions to families in distress to feed the hungry.

The Rev. Wade Everett, who pastors the Christ-Antioch Charge, point to scripture as the reason behind why the churches are so passionate about hunger relief.

The King will reply, ˜Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Proverbs 14:31 says, ˜Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God,  Everett said. That is why. I think we must be about our Father s business every day, 7-24. The one-day event is good in that it points to the need, yet we need to be doing things all the time as we are led by God to obey what the word of God says. 

Coins for the cause

The jingle-jangle of coins is a popular fundraiser at many other churches, such as Cherokee Springs and Liberty UMCs in Spartanburg, which are having noisy offerings  to raise money for the hunger relief event. A noisy offering  is when the children of the church get coffee cans or large mason jars and collect change from church members during the normal offering time.

The children love it because they get to be loud in church, but it also gets them involved in worship, too,  said the Rev. Brian Arant, noting the churches have raised several hundred dollars to date.

Trinity UMC, York, has been collecting Coins for Christ the last Sunday of each month, plus they also received a special offering on Maundy Thursday for Stop Hunger Now.

The Band of Brothers men s group at St. John s UMC, Rock Hill, had their Pennies from Heaven buckets in the church lobbies during Lent and beyond for people to give to the cause, plus they are steering their Lenten and other offerings toward the cause. Also, their Disciple 1 class fasted during their time together each week during Lent and gave money to Stop Hunger Now instead of spending it on food, and their Quest Youth will be having a 30-hour fast to raise funds.

Special offerings

Other churches decided to take up special offerings for hunger relief, which was a deviation from the norm for many of them.

Adnah and First UMCs in Clover collected Ash Wednesday offerings for the project.

Leesville and St. John s UMCs, Batesburg, designated the offering from their combined Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services to the event, raising more than $500.

We don t normally receive an offering during special Holy Week services but decided this was a worthwhile effort and a good way for a community with two United Methodist congregations within three and a half miles of each other to worship and work together toward a common cause, said the Rev. Sandra Smith King.

St. John UMC, Sumter, took special offerings during their Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunrise services for hunger relief, collecting $156.

Normally we don t take offerings on these special services, but it s an opportune time to refocus our ability to help those that are the least of these,  said the Rev. Bob Huggins. You don t always get the biggest offering but we met our goal of giving at least $100. 

St. John is also asking its members to bring canned goods to church the first Sunday of each month in May and June specifically for the conference food drive.

We feel we are a part of something so many of us take for granted,  Huggins added. We are fed three meals a day, and there are those who are lucky to get one meal a day. Instead of writing a check, you get to put your hands in the bags and know you are a part of it. 

Chapin UMC, Chapin, posted a prominent hunger logo and link on its website so its members can give, serve, etc. on June 11. The cover article for its May newsletter is about the hunger event and how the church can be involved, and they have also donated $500 to the project. They are also continuing their strong support of the We Care ministry of Chapin in solidarity (monthly food collection and financial support).

For more about the one-day June 11 conference-wide hunger relief effort, visit www.umcsc.org .

Have you signed up for your Stop Hunger Now shift?

A thousand non-delegate volunteers are needed to pack meals during three shifts June 11. Adults are asked to come the first or second shifts (8-10:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). Youth will pack during the third shift (2-4:30 p.m.), then a meal together, followed by a youth-oriented worship service that night called A 4:12 Story,  led by leading Christian worship leader/music artist Brett Younker. The conference needs to raise $72,000 for the event, with half raised by May 1. Funds raised beyond the $72,000 will go to local hunger ministries throughout the state. To sign up, go to www.umcsc.org .

Gather those canned goods

The S.C. Conference is collecting canned goods and other non-perishables for a conference-wide food drive at the Florence Civic Center on June 11. The Rev. Ashley McCoy-Bruce, the conference s Upstate Gleaning Coordinator for Society of St. Andrew, is coordinating the food drive. Food will be distributed throughout Florence County and to other area food pantries and ministries.

Can t be in Florence June 11?

Hosting a local hunger event June 11 in conjunction with the conference event? Churches that are hosting events June 11 are being asked to email photos that day to hunger@umcsc.org. The photos will be shared at Annual Conference later that day.

The Rev. Ashley McCoy-Bruce, Upstate Gleaning Coordinator for Society of St. Andrew, is also hoping to provide the Upstate with gleaning opportunities (depending on availability of crops) for those unable to attend Annual Conference. To participate, contact her at 864-640-7171 or scglean@endhunger.org .

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