ESSEX, IA (August 9, 2010) – Faith Covenant Church’s first “Thanksgiving in July” project gathered the support of the entire community so that the hungriest in their area would be fed.
Local food pantry donations are always high during Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons, but food panty shelves are often bare during the summer months because of decreased donations and increased need, says Pastor Jim Ressegieu. The need is greater than at most times of the year because children are home for the summer and are not able to eat at least two meals a day at school-sponsored programs.
“Combine the need with a poor economy and the loss of many industrial jobs in southwest Iowa and you have the recipe for unprecedented need to help more and more families with fewer and fewer resources,” Ressegieu says.
Ressegieu and Carla Kirchert (accompanying photo), church chair, were discussing possible outreach programs for the church and devised a plan for the church to tackle a community outreach project every other month for a year beginning in July. “An initial list was made and it was decided to target the regional food pantry located six miles south of Essex in Shenandoah because of their desperate need for donations,” Ressegieu says.
Kirchert enlisted volunteers and arranged for local businesses to co-sponsor the food drive by contributing $100 to pay for fliers and sturdy plastic bags with handles. Essex residents would place their food donations in the bags, and pantry clients would reuse them to take the food home.
Several Essex businesses handed out the bags to their customers to fill during the week of July 25-31. Additionally, several businesses received decorated drop-off boxes for donations of non-perishable foods as well as toiletries and laundry products. Two radio stations interviewed Kirchert to promote the project.
Along the way, T-shirts were designed, printed, and sold to church members who wore them for the first time on July 31, the day donations were received. They will be worn during other upcoming community projects.
About two dozen church members were present either in the morning to receive donations or in the afternoon to unload the contributions at the food bank. The volunteers initially thought the donations would fill half of a large trailer that had been donated, Ressegieu says. “Within the first hour, however, those thoughts were buried in a virtual sea of blue donation bags.”
By early afternoon, volunteers had loaded the trailer with nearly one and a half tons of food and supplies, Ressegieu says. Additionally, $220 was collected and given to the pantry so they could buy meat and other items at reduced prices.
The volunteers didn’t fully comprehend the enormity of the project and the community’s generosity until after the final bag was unloaded, says Ressegieu. “The volunteers who helped unload the trailer – many with tears of happiness – raised a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for his goodness in allowing them to bring Thanksgiving in July to those of the community in need.”