The lazy days of summer often include setting aside hectic schedules and planning great getaways, but some of our neighbors are wondering how they will feed lunch to their children during the school break. That’s where MUST Ministries steps in with the summer lunch program, a community effort to help those in need.
This program, part of MUST Ministries for 21 of the 46 years the ministry has been in our community, serves seven counties including Cherokee. It runs for 10 weeks, Monday-Friday. More than 7,500 children are served daily, 300,000-plus lunches per summer. A whopping 2.14 million meals have been delivered since 1995.
It takes a lot of volunteers to keep this program going. One group of teachers at Hasty Elementary are in it for the long haul. The teachers have faithfully served the Summer Lunch program since 2009. Two of those teachers share their stories.
“I no longer know all of the names of the children we serve, but it doesn’t matter,” Joy S. says. “I remember their faces and know where they live as they come running out of their homes when they hear me honk. I know the smiles and the thrill that comes when it’s bologna sandwich day. When you ask my children, who have grown up doing this (one now entering high school and the other middle school), what their plans are for the summer, their first response is not going to Six Flags or hanging out at the pool, but ‘We deliver lunches with my Mimi.’ I’m so grateful that my family has had the opportunity to serve the community in such a meaningful way.”
Judy B. says, “I serve with other teachers, staff members, and parents taking sack lunches to some of our students all summer long. If you want to see excitement, watch students realize their principal and teacher are bringing their lunch! Seeing students in their own environment changes us. I believe we receive so much more than we give! Delivering lunches has become the highlight of my summer.”
Since about 7,000 lunches are needed daily, MUST invites families or church, civic or neighborhood groups to help by preparing lunches according to the MUST Summer Lunch Menu and Guidelines. Contact Ranettia Beasley, the Cherokee summer lunch coordinator, to plan the best date and menu for your group.
There are a few other ways to help, such as hosting a supply drive (a list of needed lunch items is on the website), color lunch bags with fun and encouraging messages, or volunteer in one of many positions: lead volunteer, checker and packer, drivers and riders. Three convenient host sites for dropping off lunch supplies are Heritage Fellowship and New Life Church, both in Canton, and Hillside United Methodist Church in Woodstock. If your church would like to become a host, MUST is in need of more sites.
Every bit of help counts, no matter how large or small.
“Do your little bits where you are. It’s the little bits all put together that overwhelm the world,” Beasley says. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susan Schulz, contributing writer