For Thanksgiving, we wanted to remind our readers that there are always ways to actively pray for the homeless and hungry. These ideas will work whether your church community is flourishing with many ministries or struggling to support even one.
Many years ago, when my children were little, I read to them a book which started me on my mission to feed the poor. It was a lovely story called “Papa Panov’s Special Day,” an adaptation of a Leo Tolstoy short story, based on Matthew 25: 31-40. Those verses touched me deeply and have been my motivation ever since to help the poor and hungry whenever I can.
A parish need not feel they have to run their own soup kitchen or food pantry. There are organizations which need the support of parish groups to feed and aid the poor.
Our parish annually supports an organization whose website is britepaths.org. Fifteen parishioners each provide a weeks worth of food to needy and vetted families who live in our neighborhoods. Helping these families with their food enables them to use their limited funds for unavoidable expenses such as rent and medical expenses.
There are many community- based food pantries across our nation. Some food pantries simply ask for donations of food which are then distributed. Others are giant warehouses where volunteers go and bag vegetables, box up weekly food supplies for vetted families, or prepare food packs for children to receive on a Friday at school which keep them fed through the weekend. All you need to do is google “food pantry” and you will be amazed how many are in your local community.
Just about all of the pantries or warehouses rely heavily on volunteers to help collect, sort, and deliver food to the needy. These activities are very easy for volunteers of all ages to do if your church is looking for a straightforward activity of Christian love and outreach. It can start with a big box or basket just inside the doorway of your church sanctuary or in the church hall. Parishioners can bring their non-perishable donations and deposit them in the basket which is then delivered to whatever pantry you choose. Depending on the pantry, opportunities to sort, pack, and distribute are also made available.
A very interesting opportunity is offered through “Feed My Starving Children.” This organization was started by one man and it has grown to be quite successful and effective in feeding the poor and hungry in the very poor countries of our world. If you are lucky enough to have one of these centers in your community, I highly recommend it as a wonderful activity at which your church community and friends can volunteer. Go to
https://www.fmsc.org/ and read about this.
From their website: “Find available volunteer times for you and your friends, family, business, school, church and more! Help turn hunger into hope with your own two hands by packing nutritious meals for hungry children around the world. Our permanent sites are located in Arizona, Illinois, Minnesota and Texas, with volunteer opportunities available nationwide through FMSC MobilePack events.”
I was lucky enough to volunteer at one of their centers while visiting my daughter in Minneapolis. I joined a large group she had organized for an evening of packing. It was fun and fast-moving. Once our shift was over, we all prayed over the food packs for the people who would be receiving them. It was very moving.
Volunteering at large food warehouses is another good activity for groups. I go once a month with a group of ladies to “Food for Others” where we sort and bag food in a two hour shift.
A third common opportunity is either serving at a soup kitchen or bringing cooked food to such a center. Once a month a group of us prepare hot casserole dishes and deliver them for lunch to a shelter which feeds the homeless. The Lamb Center is supported by many church and community groups and is another great opportunity for serving the poor and hungry.
FOCUS Minnesota is an Orthodox organization which operates a very dynamic center in downtown St. Paul. They are always in need of volunteers and donations.
The need is great. The opportunities are endless. It is both our privilege and our duty to serve those in need.
Tanya Danilchick has lived in many parts of the world and has long been active in food ministries. A retired high school mathematics teacher, she lives in Oakton, Virginia, with her husband of 51 years, Protodeacon Peter Danilchick, and they have three children and eight grandchildren. She and her husband are members of St Mary Orthodox Church in Falls Church, Virginia.