League City UMC Youth Enjoy Being Hunger-Busters

Date Posted: 7/23/2015

Churches can “invest in the young” in many ways, including a food distribution ministry that allows young people to learn to give and receive, along with the others of all ages who enjoy blessing their neighbors this way year after year.
Surprisingly, about 23% of children in Galveston County are food insecure at some point during the year. To address that growing need, boys and girls from area scout troops join dozens of League City UMC youth group members in the summer to help distribute food on designated Fridays to almost 300 families. “The summer heat is so hard on our retirees who typically help at the food truck consistently throughout the year, it is a real blessing to have the students rotating in during the summer months,” says Dana Parks, LCUMC secretary.
On food truck days, the parking lot at League City UMC is full to overflowing, and has been since the church began partnering with the Galveston County Food Bank in 2011. The number of people who are food deprived continues to grow; 19 percent of children 18 years and under in Galveston County live at or below poverty level.  Children who are out of school for holidays and vacations often go without a daily meal.
“This is one of the ways we stay involved with the youth in the community – both on the volunteer side and the donation side,” says Site Coordinator Terry Worthy. “Since many of the area children have no access to school lunch programs again until September, many of our clients rely on this food to fill the gaps of food-stamp assistance. They couldn’t make ends meet without it,” adds Terry.
Community volunteers join with about 50 church volunteers twice a month to be a blessing to their neighbors. Adds Terry, “This project is quite ecumenical, too, as we have several Mormon teens who come regularly to help, which is a blessing to all because they speak Spanish.”
Youth are also involved through the winter months, helping acquire gifts for the children, and often adding candy canes into the food boxes.

Bridging to the Community
Having held a Hunger Awareness Dinner/Fundraiser the last few years to cover the costs for this food outreach program, ministry leaders decided to do something different this year – and it was a raging success. “Since we are feeding the community, we decided it would be good to empower community businesses to be more involved in this effort,” Terry explains. “We asked our members to consider talking to their employers and business suppliers about contributing to the food partnership and we have had a wonderful response. The campaign raised $15,000 – which will cover a year longer than we expected to be able to fund at this moment, and more is trickling in!” The donations will help pay for the transportation expenses of the truck to come to the church parking lot every other Friday with boxes that provide about 40 pounds of food per family. “And there is the additional expense of tarps and beverages and other supplies,” adds Terry.

Rev. Joel McMahon is proud of his members who have the passion and desire to organize and distribute this amount of food some 25 weeks of the year. “Since we started this mission in 2011, we have logged more than 10,000 volunteer hours,” says volunteer Mike Santo. “Our volunteer time is equivalent to more than a year and six weeks. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is!” Volunteer Kelli Knox said that helping out every other Friday afternoon has been a very rewarding experience for her. “I thought I would only volunteer once,” she shares. “My husband had the same mindset. The first time I subbed in the site coordinator’s role, he helped me because he knew I couldn’t get the tables set up by myself. After the experience of feeding others, he was hooked!”
Two members of the food team even conducted an experiment, taking a box of food and taking the challenge of making that last the two weeks before the next truck would arrive. Adds Terry, “This ministry has been a great mission for all of us. It strengthens the congregation and youth that help in the summer and it allows us to partner in new ways with our community. When I ask some of our servant leaders about their experience, they are quick to tell me that they love blessing so many others in such a practical and visible way.”
Feeding America, a United States-based non-profit organization that is a nationwide network of food banks that feeds more than 46 million people, estimates that 51,460 Galveston County residents are in need of emergency food assistance in a single year. That is one in five people in the area, compared to the national average of one in six. The Galveston County Food Bank distributes approximately 5.7 million pounds of food each year, which equates to 4.75 million meals.
 “Since there are many companies and organizations in our community that have funds set aside just for these types of opportunities, we decided to offer them a chance to make an immediate impact in the lives of the community,” Terry shares. “They stepped up to the plate and are helping us fill it with a decent meal!”