Youth Group Defeats Hunger for 400 Families

We all say that we want no child to go to bed hungry. But what if you believed it could be true?

Consider this: the youth group of Henryetta Church of the Nazarene in Henryetta, Oklahoma believes that they can change the status quo of hunger in their town.

At the beginning of this school year, Henryetta’s youth pastor, Jeff Williamson, started a conversation with his students about the fact that every day 1 in 5 kids is at risk of going to bed hungry in the United States. He told his students: “How can this be here in America? There’s a need in our own city. We need to do something about it.”

His students agreed.

On October 11-12, Pastor Jeff and the students selected Feed the Children as their partner and planned a “fast” to raise money for hungry kids in their town.

Students asked church members, teachers and friends to sponsor them for every hour that they thought the student could go without food. Each student had to find 20 sponsors to donate $10 each. When the kids doubted they could find 20 sponsors, Pastor Jeff told them to count how many Facebook friends they had. That made the project seem easier.

Then they considered how the students would spend the hours of their fast. Pastor Jeff encouraged the group to gather at a local park and sleep outside for the night, like the homeless often have to. They agreed to sleep out, and not in tents or on air mattresses either. They slept in cardboard boxes. Even though it was colder than usual that night in the park, 25 students and 7 adults outlasted the night.

We asked Pastor Jeff how he got his students to sleep outside in the cold for a night. He said:  “I challenged them to experience something new. I told them about all the people I’ve met in our town who camp out in the woods on a regular basis.”

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Over and over, the students said the same thing about the experience: “I never knew how it felt to be homeless.”

In the end, their efforts raised over $10,000, which they have designated to bring one Feed the Children truck, filled with boxes of food and everyday essentials, to their community. The truck will arrive with a week’s supply of food, along with personal hygiene and household items, for 400 families in need. It is scheduled to arrive before the Thanksgiving holiday.

They’ve also approached several major grocery stores in their community asking them to donate turkeys. They hope to enhance the Feed the Children boxes with a free turkey and loaf of bread.

On October 20, members of the church visited with Feed the Children staff in Oklahoma City and presented the check for the funds they raised to Feed the Children President and CEO, Kevin Hagan.

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Pastor Jeff said, “We want the community to know that we see them. They don’t have to be hungry over the holidays. God never intended the church to sit still while people are hungry in this world.”

When asked how families will be chosen to receive the food boxes, Pastor Jeff said they’re already working with school administrators in their town to select those who will receive the help.

We’re so proud of their efforts and what this group is doing to defeat hunger where they live!

Would you like to organize a similar project in your community? Contact us– we’d be glad to support you! 

Feed the Children Helps Teachers Too

Kids in the US are more than hungry.

While important, food will not satisfy all their needs.

Kids need to learn, in good schools, with well-prepared teachers—teachers who can offer kids every tool they need to grow into a successful future.

Feed the Children walks alongside teachers to help make this happen, as much as we are able.

Thanks to generous partners like the Office Depot Foundation, for the past three years, we’ve operated a Teacher Store within our distribution warehouse in Oklahoma City. (We have recently opened similar stores near Nashville, Tennessee and Elkhart, Indiana as well).

Two afternoons a week during the school year, the Teacher Store opens for instructors to shop for free for their classroom. They are given reusable bags to fill with whatever supplies they feel they need. They find everything from sets of books for reading groups, to markers, labels, bulletin board materials and classroom furniture, all available on a first come, first served basis. Feed the Children staff members greet each teacher and assist as needed.

IMG_1494Charme and JoAnn, teachers at Shawnee Early Learning Center in Shawnee, OK have been coming to the Feed the Children Teacher Store for the past two years. They both say that their kindergarten classrooms are better equipped to help kids learn thanks to the supplies from the Teacher Store.

Charme told us, “With budget cuts, money is tight at our school. Often we are spending our own money to buy supplies. But thanks to the Teacher Store, we are doing less and less of this!”

JoAnn added, “We love coming here because we can give our kids so many more opportunities to learn.”

Once a month, the teachers can return to shop again. Many do, and they bring their colleagues.

Debbie, a kindergarten teacher at Windsor Hills Elementary in Oklahoma City says she loves coming to the Teacher Store because, “The selection is great, IMG_1497.JPGespecially the books. I find so many things here that I don’t have to buy on my own.”

The sad truth is that many kids in America arrive at school without the most basic supplies. How can children learn without paper, pens, computers, and books? How will they be prepared to make it as adults without adequate training in school? They won’t.

Many teachers, often already underpaid, care so much about their students’ education that they spend their own money for classroom supplies for their students. On average, teachers spend at least $500 of their own money on resources to help their students learn.

One special education teacher, Yeneer who works at Western Heights Elementary in Oklahoma City, told us that because the challenges her students and their IMG_1498.JPGfamilies face are so great, school supplies are quite low on their parents’ priority list. Because of the Feed the Children Teacher Store, she’s able to provide her students with basic supplies.

“I love that my kids don’t feel less than,” she said. “With your help, my students feel more like all the other kids.”

That’s why it’s so important to us to support these teachers. When teachers receive the best resources possible, they’re free to focus all their energy and resources on teaching. And that gives their students every opportunity to learn and achieve great things.

We are indebted to the corporate donors who help stock our Teacher Stores each month, including TOPS Products, School Specialty, Excelligence Learning Corporation, BIC, Hachette Book Group, First Book, Disney Publishing, Scholastic and The Creative Company. They believe in our mission of providing hope for those without life’s essentials.

Together, we’re helping more kids be kids and learn to their fullest potential in school this year!