Since most people in our county live well, it is easy to forget many live in poverty. Those of us who have worked in the MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Program have witnessed it daily.
A few days ago, Sharron Hunt and I were attempting to go down a one-lane dirt road in very rural north Cherokee County. The road was blocked by two cars of sheriff’s deputies.
Not sure of what we should do, we asked one officer if it was OK for us to be there. Before he could answer, children came running around the deputies’ cars to get to us.
They live in the houses at the end of the road and knew we were delivering their lunches. Those children had qualified for the program by getting free or reduced price lunches during the school year.
All along our route, children like them greeted the drivers with big smiles and most remembered to say, “Thank you.”
It was Jake Hall, our then minister at Heritage Baptist Fellowship, who got our congregation involved as a distribution center for the MUST Ministries Program.
That meant early risers, five days per week, arrived smiling and ready for duty. Others, like me, straggled in late to aid in packing and delivering more than 500 meals each day.
Each lunch bag contained four items. There was always a sandwich and a fruit drink. Then chips, a cookie, etc. were added. Next, they were put into boxes and loaded into cars and trucks to be delivered.
Mable Ferry, a counselor at Hasty Elementary School, may not know it but she is one of my favorite people. When she reads this column, she may think, “What! I hardly know Marguerite Cline?”
As an ice-breaker on the first day of school, teachers often ask their students, “What did you do during summer break?”
If you asked me what Mable Ferry did during her summer break, I know the answer. She delivered lunches to needy children of Hasty Elementary.
My question was, “Why?” Most teachers treasure their time off.
Mable said, “…knowing my children (Hasty children) were getting a meal …was all that I needed to keep me doing this and was more rewarding than any beach.”
It was Judy Brandon, a teacher at Hasty, who introduced Mable to the program. After it was discussed at a faculty meeting, other teachers signed on to deliver the sack lunches, too.
Help came from many directions. Other churches and organizations such as Service League of Cherokee and Canton Rotary Club made hundreds of sandwiches.
Occasionally, the plan did not quite come together. There was a delay with the delivery of the sandwiches to the church or confusion about who would be bringing them on that day.
Virginia Land, our more than able leader, was prepared for anything. Those assembled at Heritage put on gloves and made as many sandwiches — sometimes 250 plus — as needed.
From the Heritage Baptist center alone, more than 18,000 lunches were prepared, packaged and delivered during the summer.
While the program is only for children, there was at least once when an exception was made. A lady was sitting on a curb. It was obvious she had been evicted, since her furniture had been put beside the street.
When she asked for one of the lunches, we could not refuse.
One morning as we made lunches, some of us talked about a need in our church. Our teenagers needed adults to accompany them to a church camp in North Carolina. So, Norman and Frances Sosebee, Dick Edwards and I volunteered.
When the camp directors learned our ages ranged from 76 to 88, they did not think that was a good idea. Thankfully, younger folks from the church arranged to go with the teens.
Recently, Frances and I were on a route delivering lunches. We wished those North Carolina folks who declined our help could have seen us climbing in and out of the car, lifting heavy boxes and lining up the kids at each stop.
They would probably beg us to help them with their next camp.
Incidentally, Frances is not the tallest person I know and my car seats are low. With a big box of lunch bags in her lap blocking her vision, she did not always know exactly where we were.
Now if you want to volunteer for the program next summer, just call Heritage Baptist and put your name on the list. Older folks and younger ones are welcome. Unlike those North Carolina camp folks, we welcome able-bodied volunteers of any age.
Although it is sometimes hard work, you will be glad you did it. Plus, when the morning’s work is done, most of the workers, with a cup of coffee and a sweet treat in hand, sit around for a while and enjoy one another’s company.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.