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Everyone can help feed hungry children

Do you remember being in grade school and dreading long summer days full of nothing to do but beg your mother to take you to your friend’s house to play? Unfortunately, my mother worked full days during the week and I was left with a stocked kitchen and my imagination. As an intern at MUST Ministries, being a part of the Summer Lunch program takes me back.

The only difference between me and the children that are recipients of the Summer Lunch program is that I had three meals a day and they do not. My grief and complaint back then, at the age of 10, is nothing compared to the children who patiently wait to be given a sack lunch from the Summer Lunch volunteers.

It’s an eye opener for me. I’ve always been somewhat aware that America is facing a hunger issue. In the United States today, nearly 16 million children face hunger. If it weren’t for me interning at MUST, I probably still to this day couldn’t comprehend it; I still can’t, in fact.

In the year 2014, 254,906 summer lunches were distributed to children in eight counties. This summer, MUST will serve their 2 millionth lunch since the program began 20 years ago! The growth rate of children who receive free and reduced lunch has sky rocketed since 2009. Students are on summer break for 10 weeks. How are these children being fed over the summer?

The Summer Lunch program was created to “feed” each child’s body, mind and soul by providing a sack lunch five days a week and a free book to each child on Fridays. There are many stories of children eating a portion of their lunches and either saving it for later or for their parents. These meals impact each child and remind them that there is still hope.

MUST serves in eight surrounding counties collaborating with many churches, corporate groups, YMCA and hundreds of volunteers. I can’t think of a better way to meet the need of child hunger.

Want to help? Read more about Summer Lunch on the MUST web site or email summerlunch@mustministries.org. Pledged lunches are desperately needed.

An intern’s perspective

Have you ever sat in a building surrounded by people and wondered about his or her story? Have you ever had the courage to go up to one of those people and ask, “What is your story?” In our minds, that doesn’t seem normal. We are afraid to ask a question that big, but what if the response was to tell you about his or her life, because maybe on that day that person needed you right there in that moment to ask that very question.
A few weeks have past as the new marketing/ public relations intern for MUST Ministries and it is incredible that in such a short time my eyes have been opened to more than just the development side of MUST. When I initially got the position as an intern for MUST, I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around what MUST does for their neighbors. When I was able to tour the Elizabeth Inn Campus, I finally began to get a clear understanding.
I took advantage of my time at the Elizabeth Inn where the welcoming Loaves and Fishes Kitchen was beginning to serve lunch to those who are hungry. I scanned the dining room full of many stories waiting to be heard and I sat beside a woman in her mid-thirties. She eagerly welcomed me to the chair next to her and we exchanged names. It was then I opened up conversation by simply asking her about her story. Her face immediately lit up from ear to ear, like a child on Christmas morning. She proceeded to tell me about her goals she had for herself, and you could feel her vitality and determinism. I was inspired hearing about how she lost her job, and had little family left, but she still had praises in her life.
“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash another’s feet” (John 13:14). This verse rings very true for MUST. I feel that even asking someone to share his or her story is an act of serving. The volunteers and staff at MUST are living out this scripture by serving and loving all people. It is astounding to see the time people set aside to serve at the Elizabeth Inn Campus, and all other areas that volunteers serve for MUST.
At MUST, the people are kind, the structure for each program is efficient and most of all it’s faith centered. As an intern, it’s significant to surround yourself with people who will encourage you and help you grow. I’m thankful to be a part of MUST and the many things I will take away from my time here beyond marketing and public relations.

The Impact of Stories

Intern Jennifer 2014The Impact of Stories- An Intern’s Perspective

            Stories are what make situations real to people who are otherwise detached from them.  I hear about a situation and want to help out in some way, but until something or someone pulls on my heart strings, it doesn’t motivate me.

            I began my internship at MUST Ministries excited to help my neighbors in need.  I thought I had a pretty good idea of what MUST does and as far as programs and help offered, I did.  What I didn’t know, were the stories hidden behind what they do here and why.  I underestimated the impact of experiences of the clients and their journeys.

            One of my key responsibilities during my internship was to help organize MUST’s first ever health fair.  I thought I knew the impact this would have on our clients, but I was mistaken.  Throughout the day, I heard stories from various clients and other staff members who had spoken to clients about how the health fair helped them and change their lives.

One man found a suit from a group donating free clothing to those enrolled in the health fair.  That sounds great, but this suit was special.  He had a job interview the very next day and didn’t have anything to wear to it prior to the event.  Everyone knows first impressions can make or break a job interview.  This suit gave him the chance to make a good first impression and be well on his way to supporting himself once again.

Another man walked all the way from Cartersville (a good 25 miles at least) in old, worn-out shoes that were badly in need of replacing.  From the same donation group, he received a gem: a pair of hiking boots in his exact size- name brand, top of the line, and good as new.  Since he walks everywhere, this was perfect and such a delight to him.

Throughout the summer, I also went on some summer lunch deliveries.  I knew that many children relied on this program as their sole meal for the day throughout the summer.  Think about how many times a day you get hungry and get up to grab a snack.  Take that hunger and add the heat of the summer that drains your energy.  To me, it is unbelievable how these children can play outside in the heat, with only one meal a day.

In my last summer lunch delivery, I discovered that many of the children will eat only half of their lunches, then save the rest for dinner…  smart idea.  I know it would be incredibly difficult for me to not eat it all in one sitting.  Could you?

The stories behind the situation show the true impact of what MUST is doing.  Though we don’t always think about it, these are individuals- not groups or statistics- and individuals with unique stories about their journeys in life.  Your help gives these individuals a chance to create a new chapter in their lives- a chapter filled with hope.  Why waste time and sit in front of the T.V. hearing about generic situations when you can not only make an impact, but also find out the stories each person has to tell and be a part of their stories?  It will open your eyes and change the way you think forever.

  • Jennifer Germano

An Intern’s Perspective: My Widened View of MUST Ministries

Blog Tyler 7-16-2014

An Intern’s Perspective: My Widened View of MUST Ministries

When I started my internship at MUST Ministries I thought I knew everything MUST had to offer, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. I started my Internship in the middle of May with marketing and public relations and I had no idea that this internship would open my eyes to more than just writing and media relations skills.

Something I was unaware of was the number of counties that MUST helped. I was not aware that they reached out to eight different counties in Georgia. I grew up on the county line of Paulding, Bartow and Cobb and never realized the number of those in need was so great. It opened my eyes and sparked a fire for service to help those I know in need. It was right under my nose for 21 years while living at home with my parents and still is today living in Kennesaw. I always thought I wanted to travel overseas to help those in need because we were so well off here, but I found that I could do a lot here at home as well as help those overseas.

I was pleasantly surprised when I learned of all of the programs that MUST had to offer the eight counties. I knew that MUST reached out to children over the summer with the Summer Lunch Program and I knew about the shelter at the Elizabeth Inn, but what I didn’t know were other ways that MUST reaches out to the community. MUST provides job training, health fairs, the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen, permanent and supportive housing, veteran’s supportive housing and community housing, and even MUST Toy Shops during the Christmas season. Being able to experience first-hand some of the programs and help with them was the most rewarding part of my internships.

The reason all of the programs are able to work and the reason MUST can reach out to eight different counties in Georgia is the staff. With my time here I have tried to meet as many people as possible that volunteer or work at MUST. I am not saying this because I Intern here or because I am trying to be nice, I genuinely like every person I have met. It does not matter if they are the CEO of the company, a board member, a director or a volunteer, everyone treats me with kindness and respect and I will always remember that. 

I have been taught so much from everyone and every experience while interning with MUST. The lessons I take away from MUST are more than just writing and media relations. These lessons are ones that will help me become a better person and help me impact my community. 

Tyler Pelfrey

I am a MUST Shepherd: Carol Wisdom shares her story

Wisdom_Carol_headshot

How did you first get connected to MUST Ministries?

 I was an occasional volunteer through Mt. Bethal UMC in the 1980s and 1990s when I was a member there.  I never dreamed that in 2003 I would go to work for MUST full-time for nearly ten years.  Today, I serve on the Board of Directors.

 

How/Why does the MUST mission motivate you?

 My faith drives me to serve my neighbors in need.  I pray daily that God will open my eyes and heart to see where He is already at work so that I might join him in fulfilling His purpose.  MUST clients also motivate me to get involved.  I have heard and seen stories of faith in the midst of extreme struggle, perseverance and strength when life beats someone down, and hope when there appears to be none.  If you listen to clients, they will talk about how blessed they are just because MUST offers them the very basics of life.  It keeps me in check when I complain about trivial matters.

 

3)      Why do you donate to MUST monthly/regularly? 

I donate to MUST monthly because I see how lives are changed there every day.  I also know what good stewards MUST is with donors’ gifts.  After working there, I trust MUST and know that every designated gift and undesignated gift is honored and appreciated.

Although I don’t feel wealthy, by the world’s standard I have been richly blessed in my life.  I wanted to give more than I felt that I could write in a single check.  When I looked at what I wanted to give and divided by twelve (months), I thought, “Wow, that’s doable.”  I actually have it put on a credit card and pay it off every month.  I don’t even miss it.  It is a great way to give and it is something that MUST can count on every month.

 4)      Do you have a personal experience that tells your MUST story best? (running in Gobble jog, volunteering at shelter, etc.)

One day I was at the Elizabeth Inn and passed a resident and just said, “hey, how are you today?”  She said, ”Honey, I am so blessed.”  I thought “How can she be blessed when she has nothing.  She is living in a homeless shelter!”  So I asked, “What makes you feel so blessed today?”  She replied, ”Are you kidding?  I slept in a warm bed under a dry roof last night.  I have eaten three meals in the last three days.  Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had three meals in one day. Someone is going to help me find a job and create a plan for my FUTURE!  What more could I ask for.  Praise God!”  It made me reflect on my complaining to my husband the night before how I was driving a ten year old car and wanted to get a new one.  And, when could we afford to get a cleaning service to help me keep up at home?  Wow!  That MUST client ministered to me in a powerful way.  When someone asks me if we are witnessing to MUST clients who are living in darkness, I secretly smile.  If everyone would just listen, I think MUST clients can witness to those who have so much and take it for granted.  I think the people in my neighborhood need to hear my witness more than MUST clients.  Many clients depend on their faith to get them through each day.

5)      Is there something we haven’t asked you about your MUST Ministries experience that you’d like to share?

 There are so many miracles I have seen at MUST.  I could tell you about so many things I have witnessed.  Most importantly, though,   MUST is an ongoing story of provision.  To know that through the community’s response,

  • a ton of food is given to the needy each day,
  • that enough nice clothes are donated that MUST can operate the MUST MarketPlace,
  • that people are willing to donate time and finances to ensure that MUST can serve 34,000 people in need each year,restores my faith in the basic good in people.

 

 

MUST Moments: Celebrating the Ordinary

1385767_13100666By Carol C. Hunt

Celebration is the acceptance of life and the constantly increasing awareness of its preciousness. We can only really celebrate when we affirm our present condition. It is the recognition that something is there and needs to be made visible so that we can say “yes” to it. To be present to the moment is an affirmation of each other in many different ways we experience life.

When I enter with the children into their joy, I enter also with them into their unique understanding of value in the ordinary discovered completely by surprise.

In the ending days of our summer lunch program, two tanned barefoot boys ran to our van and eagerly exclaimed, “Yesterday my brother and I found two baby chicks running in the trailer park.” He continued, “We begged our mom to keep them.  She said only if we can find a big box. Our trailer is too small for animals to be running around. We remember that you brought big boxes to carry the lunches you deliver to the children and we told her we were very sure you’d let us have one for our chickens’ new home.”

Not only did we have big boxes, but also we had little ones and middle-sized ones. We had choices, wonderful choices! We consecrated the chickens’ new home and left with more respect for an ordinary cardboard box.

It is odd how these “little celebrations” of surprises and kindness can link us to the diversity of our ministry:

  • A mother finding a suit in our MUST-Wear Clothes Closet for her son to wear to the senior prom
  • Mental Health Consumers unloading donuts and bread in a joyful community effort
  • A guest in the Elizabeth Inn sharing with his case manager that he has been sober for 30 days, whereas he had never gone more than 14
  • The words overheard on a cold winter day in the soup kitchen, “This cornbread is almost as good as my grandmother’s.”
  • A single mother of three exclaiming to her delight, “Because I had childcare and support, I’ve stayed long enough at my job to get benefits! That’s never happened before.”
  • A family of five taking groceries from the food pantry and returning the next week, after the father got his paycheck at the end of the month, with a small box of food to say thank you

My days at MUST are made up of ordinary moments where life is fully celebrated with kindness and affirmed in truth.

As the winter days stretched into longer light, and I discovered the surprise of the early buds of spring resting in the limbs of the tree outside the MUST shelter, I remember in celebration the beautiful words of the Psalmist, “kindness and truth shall meet” (Psalm 85).

Carol Hunt is a Georgia native, retired school teacher and long-time staff member and current volunteer at MUST Ministries.  Carol has a passion for serving the poor and helped launch MUST Ministries’ Summer Lunch program.  She is also a devoted Associate Sister of Mercy. 

I am a MUST Shepherd: Rita Moore shares her story

Moore_Rita_image2

 

Every month we will feature MUST Shepherds who  are helping serve your neighbors in need through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.

 

How did you get connected to MUST?

My first job at my church, First United Methodist Church, was to head up local missions.  The MUST board at the time had about three or four pastors and they needed someone with a background in pension planning.  I was it.  I became board secretary in 1995/96.

What is it about MUST that keeps you coming back?

My mom tells me I used to come home from school and feel bad about kids who didn’t have what I did, and we were your average middle class family.  I think I was just born with this giving spirit.  I’ve always wanted to give back.

I truly believe MUST has been a gift for me and has given me more than I have given it.  It has made me stretch.  Through my work on the board, I have matured both personally and professionally.  Everyone at MUST values what I do for them.  I feel like I can help make a difference and I’m seen as making a difference.  I think volunteering and giving go hand in hand.  It doesn’t just mean writing a check.

Why do you give monthly?

I believe I was recruited into the MUST monthly giving program at one of our many board meetings.  From the very beginning, it just made a lot of sense to me to participate.  I just assumed all board members were part of the monthly giving group.  Why wouldn’t you be?   Every time I serve at my church in Sunday school, or the dinners we serve at the community kitchen on the Elizabeth Inn campus, people are so appreciative of what we do.  It really is a privilege to do it.  That’s really what it’s all about; we don’t get these opportunities to have an impact in a life enough.

An Emotional Meeting with a Homeless Baby

Baby photo for blogToday was my first day as MUST Ministries’ newest marketing intern. I came to the office expecting a day full of paperwork and other office duties, but little did I know, today would be the day that changed my heart forever.

I walked into quite a surprise. My supervisor, Kaye Cagle, decided to take me on my first tour of the MUST Ministries campus. I was excited and nervous all at the same time. I had done extensive research on MUST, but nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see for myself.

The first stop on our tour was the Loaves and Fishes Community Kitchen. When I got out of the car, I noticed a line already forming on the deck of the building. Homeless men, women and children were withstanding the cold and windy weather just to get a bite to eat. As we approached the building, I began to feel the warmth. No, the weather didn’t drastically change. It was the people waiting in line and the gracious volunteers and staff that made all the difference. All with big smiles, they greeted us as we walked inside.

Church volunteers were busy at work, preparing the meals for lunch. After only a few minutes inside Loaves and Fishes, I could feel the sense of family. These people weren’t just clients, volunteers and staff. These people love and care for each other. I could feel God’s presence working in each and every heart.

What an honor to sit at a table with a mother and her eight-week-old baby girl. They were both living in homelessness. I normally get excited when I see a baby. Not this time. It felt like my heart had broken into a million pieces.

The mother told us her difficult story. As she was speaking, my eyes began to get misty. I couldn’t believe what this woman has gone through and that her precious baby girl was born into such suffering.

The woman surprised me with what she said next. She explained just how blessed she was because of MUST Ministries and its people. She was so incredibly happy that God has placed her right here – at MUST Ministries. I couldn’t help but smile through the tears.

As we left the dining room, Mrs. Cagle noticed that I seemed a little overwhelmed. I explained to her that it broke my heart to see so many people living in homelessness, starving and cold. My boss looked at me and said, “But thank God we are here for them. Where would they be without us?”

She was right. A person living in homelessness and poverty is a terrible and sad thing. But I thank our Lord that we have MUST Ministries here that can provide light in such a dark place.

My first day interning for MUST Ministries was an eye-opening experience. I witnessed homelessness and poverty. But I also witnessed God’s gracious heart working in each and every worker and volunteer.

I came home tonight and prayed for all the men, women and that eight-week-old baby girl living in homelessness. And then I thanked God for MUST Ministries.

I am a MUST Shepherd: Brant and Holly Suddath share their story

Brant and Holly Suddath are Smyrna residents and proud MUST Shepherds.

Brant and Holly Suddath are Smyrna residents and proud MUST Shepherds.

 

Every month we will feature MUST Shepherds who  are helping serve your neighbors in need through their gifts of time, talent and treasure.

 

How did you first get connected to MUST Ministries?

We first knew of MUST Ministries through the Gobble Jog and annual food drives at our children’s school. We were convicted to give regularly to local charities, MUST is a well-respected charity and a great starting point for us.

 

How/Why does the MUST mission motivate you?

We live in Smyrna, and we believe we can truly help MUST “serve our neighbors in need” because there is a Smyrna MUST location where we can serve our actual neighbors with our time in addition to financial contributions.

Why do you donate to MUST monthly/regularly?

We were led by our church pastor who helped us see if we have more than we need, we should be generous and willing to share; and we needed a giving plan so we are not only donating our left-overs. Setting up a monthly donation helped us make our giving plan a reality. Our church does not have it’s own extensive benevolence organization because it wants to support local charities who are already doing an extraordinary job of serving the community, and MUST Ministries seems to us to be a perfect example.

Do you have a personal experience that tells your MUST story best? (running in Gobble jog, volunteering at shelter, etc.)

 Holly has been volunteering in the Employment and Education services computer lab at MUST Smyrna since January 2013. At first she helped clients during open computer lab days, assisting with applying for jobs, updating resumes, and with general computer skills. In August, she began teaching a 4-hour “Back to Work” class to help MUST clients with job readiness, interviewing, and writing an excellent resume. The ability to assist MUST clients and work alongside other committed volunteers in the name of Christ is an inspiring and humbling experience.

GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME!

A few short true stories that have happened at MUST Ministries to show how God is good… all the time!  by Carol Hunt

One of my favorite stories about the clothes rack involves two high school boys who’d been invited to their girlfriends’ proms.  They were brought in by their “Big Brother” because they couldn’t afford to buy suits or rent tuxedos.  One of the boys was of average build making it easy to find a good fitting suit.  The other, however, was a rather large football player who presented a challenge to the volunteers.  After searching through the MUST Ministries clothes on the racks, they found a burgundy sport coat, navy blue pants, white shirt and print tie.  He tried them on and looked terrific.  As he left he smiled and said, “You know, these are my girlfriend’s school colors!”  God is so good!

 

 

MUST Ministries blogSally had just interviewed a young man trying to raise two children by himself.  His wife had a drug problem and had left the home.  He had lost his job because of not being able to find childcare and feared losing his home.  As he was waiting for groceries, a young woman Sally knew came in.  She had recently begun to do childcare and was willing to take on his kids free of charge.  That’s all he needed to get them back on their feet again!

 

 

A large sized man came in to Smyrna MUST Ministries in need of business clothes for a new job.  As we were looking through bags, a young man came in to donate his father’s clothes to us—just the right size!

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