‘Love Lunches’ on the go
Weekdays during school and Christmas breaks, Gerry Cass loads her car and delivers "love lunches" to children living in neighboring homes.
For the past three years, Cass and other volunteers from Southeast Pierre Mission United Methodist Church in South Dakota have provided food when school is closed to the children who do not receive the breakfast, lunch and snacks that the school provides. The sack lunch program stemmed from the Busy Bee program held on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Southeast Pierre Community Center with which the church shares a building.
In December 2016, Cass braved a lengthy ice storm to deliver 415 lunches to children during the Christmas breaks.
It was in the summer a year before that Cass first became aware that children were going hungry and decided to get involved.
"I love kids," she says. "Their circumstances are different. We have many single parents who are working multiple jobs, and the kids are left alone." Many of them don't have enough food to eat, she says, and they are happy and grateful to get the food. It puts a smile on their faces.
In Summer 2016, the church provided 4,483 "love lunches," an average of 76 each day. That's about 9,000 slices of bread. "It's definitely God, there is no way we can do this on our own," said Cass.
Volunteers go through 10-12 loaves of bread each morning as they make peanut butter/jelly and ham sandwiches and then fill the remainder of the bags with fruit, juice, milk, crackers and cookies. On Fridays, extra food is given for the weekend.
Donations come from the church and other sources. A man that Cass met in the park during an outing with kids gave $1,000 towards the program. His friend gave $1,500.
"God provides," she says.
Most of the many volunteers helping with "Love Lunches" come from Southeast Pierre and First United Methodist churches. "We cannot do this without them," Cass says, adding even the children who benefit sometimes help pack and deliver lunches.
"It Worked for Us" is written by Christine Kumar, a freelance writer and administrator, Baltimore Metropolitan District, Baltimore-Washington Conference.