UMCSC gathers money, volunteers for daylong meal-packing
By Jessica Brodie
Organizers are shifting into high gear as they seek remaining money and volunteers for this month’s Stop Hunger Now meal-packing.
Stop Hunger Now is this year’s service project at Annual Conference. All day Tuesday, June 9, at the Florence Civic Center, volunteers will pack 285,000 meals for hungry people through the international hunger-relief organization Stop Hunger Now. The goal is $86,000; any funds raised beyond that will go toward both hunger and children in poverty ministries across the conference and shared equally among the 12 districts.
As of the Advocate’s press time, the conference has raised more than a third of what is needed—$30,417 of the $86,000 needed to pack the meals—and still has plenty of space left for volunteers who want to help.
“At this point, we’re just trying to get folks behind this event and get the funds sent in to cover the meals, but I think it’s going to be a snowball effect,” said Chris Lynch, who is coordinating the Stop Hunger Now event for the conference. “The momentum is beginning to build.”
The effort got a huge boost in May as South Carolina Resident Bishop Jonathan Holston and his Cabinet stepped up and made personal offerings for Stop Hunger Now. Each district superintendent is also personally challenging each of their clergy to take up an offering to support the effort.
“We are going to believe in the power of God to do it,” said Matt Brodie, communications director. “The Stop Hunger Now event plays into all the other themes that we have going on at Annual Conference: about being in ministry with the least of these and children in poverty, about being disciples and using our gifts and our abilities to make a difference in ways that we can’t do individually. It’s about using the Connection, helping to feed children across the world and ensuring they have food and nourishment.”
This is the same service project done at Annual Conference 2013, and it was so successful that the conference raised not only funds needed to do the meal-packaging but also to donate an additional $97,000 to hunger ministries throughout the state. Lynch and other organizers hope this year’s event will raise even more.
“Everywhere you turn, even in the United States, there are people hungry every day, and then you take that into Third World countries, into countries with so much less wealth in so many places in our world that we don’t even realize,” Lynch said. “This is a chance to make a difference on a huge scale.”
In addition to funds, volunteers of all ages are needed to pack in one of three shifts: 9-11:30 a.m., 12-2:30 p.m. and 3-6 p.m. (youth pizza party immediately following). Annual Conference will celebrate the meal-packing during that evening’s worship at 7:30 p.m.
‘A leap of faith’
The Bishop’s Cabinet said their personal offerings, and subsequent challenge to their districts, came after they learned the conference was considering adjusting their goal for the hunger project—doing only a half-truck of meals instead of a full truck—because only a small amount of money had trickled in so far.
But then something shifted, said Columbia District Superintendent Cathy Jamieson-Ogg.
“We all took a leap of faith and decided we could do it,” Jamieson-Ogg said. “And the ‘we’ began with ‘me;’ each of us pulled out our checkbook, remembering the words of Jesus: ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.’”
Spartanburg District Superintendent Paul Harmon said the decision to give immediately took over and compelled action; within two minutes they had all pitched in and contributed about $1,400. Spurred on, they took things a step further and decided to challenge their districts to do the same.
“It felt very much like the Holy Spirit simply got tired of our talking and decided to act,” Harmon said. “We’re sticking to the original plan (the full truckload), and all of us pledged to redouble our efforts to get the word out to our churches. It was a really powerful moment.”
Greenville District Superintendent George Howle said he hopes every pastor in his district contributes at least $100 to Stop Hunger Now.
“Together we can change the world,” Howle said. “I have personally been to Africa and witnessed orphans living on the streets with little or no food and no hope for a better tomorrow. One of the most difficult things I have done in my life is to be so helpless in the face of such despair. What do you say to a child that is starving? What hope can you offer? We cannot stop all the hunger in the world, but we can do our part to stop hunger for one child.”
As Howle said, $100 is a small amount for us, but is a large amount of hope for a child who has no hope for daily bread.
Local churches do creative fundraising
Many churches are caught up in the same wave, driven to step up and do their part to help stamp out hunger one meal packet at a time.
Ashleigh Brooker, youth coordinator at Francis Burns UMC, Columbia, said the 4:12 Youth Ministry at her church is hosting a car wash June 6, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Stop Hunger Now event.
“This is one way our youth are putting skin in the game,” Brooker said. “And it falls right in line with the other mission projects we are doing.”
North Charleston UMC, North Charleston, has been working toward helping the project all spring. The Rev. Wendy Hudson-Jacoby said that in March they hosted “Sacrifice a Meal to Stop Hunger Now,” encouraging people to skip a meal and donate the cost of that meal to Stop Hunger Now efforts.
“We passed out packs of four envelopes with stickers on it to each household,” Hudson-Jacoby said. “Different people did different fasts. Our family gave up all fast food, another family gave up eating out breakfast, some fasted from beverages. We paired this challenge with a Bible study on fasting.”
They raised $700 for Stop Hunger Now.