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ENDING CHILD HUNGER ONE BAG AT A TIME
4400 children are food-deprived in Berkeley County. That truth deeply impacted the hearts of some caring parents and some area churches who deeply felt that no child should ever know the persisting stab of hunger pains.
In August, 2010, 365 Church began a long-term weekly weekend feeding program for school children in Berkeley County. Another church, Harvest Community began working with Burke St School. Soon these efforts would be joined in a show of community unity through a new non-profit, volunteer-driven organization called, One Hope Ministries International.
Berkeley Heights School was the first to open its doors to partner with 365 in feeding two dozen children discretely and faithfully while they were away from free school breakfast and lunch. Working with Berkeley Heights teacher, Alanda Hall, each Friday morning a team of 365ers has been bringing to the school bags filled with easy to prepare microwavable meals, snacks and fruit boxes. These bags bursting with food items began to get children through a weekend where hunger, soon become a stranger in their home.
Word grew. Other schools began to ask to be added to these bags of hope and love as hunger was causing children to arrive on Mondays lethargic and apathetic to learning. Children were hoarding food in their pockets to take home Friday afternoon for fear there would not be enough food at home to make it until Monday free breakfast. The need was and is real, right here in our neighborhoods.
In January 2011 One Hope began a more concentrated, organized effort to unite area churches, businesses, non-profits and area residents to help end child hunger in our region through what would become the Bags of Love Ministry.
Stories began to pour in from local educators of children coming to school happier, less restless and eager to learn. Parents started calling these weekend bags of food, “bags of life.” Hundreds of pounds of non-perishable, easy to fix meals started arriving at the 365 Center as neighbors showed up wanting to help. Soon, teachers groups, churches, and businesses began to “adopt” individual schools by providing dozens of bags of love each Friday to their school where guidance counselors, administrators and teachers placed food bags in backpacks while students were out of the classroom.
Today between One Hope’s “Bags of Love” Program and their partner “Berkeley County Backpacks, Inc.” over 700 children are being fed each weekend at no cost to the schools, taxpayers or community. Dozens of local non-profits and area businesses unite to make a difference in eradicating child hunger in our own backyard. These two programs are not about personalities. They exist only because no child ought to go to bed hungry ever again in our county. It is all about the children. No one is more important than they are.
The costs of offering these weekly feeding programs, is five dollars per week per child. At 700 children, that is $3500 dollars per week or $14,000 dollars per month. Every dollar to feed our local children is donated by area residents, regional businesses and local churches. Grants have also come from Eastern Panhandle Community, formerly led by Amy Owens who has been a tremendous supporter of Bags of Love. Wal-Mart has provided grants to enable One Hope to obtain food for our children. And such places as City Hospital, Pan Tran, Centra Bank (Inwood), Printing Impressions, Tropical Smoothie, Nine West Hair, Sissy’s Restaurant and many others have been collection locations for food and community donations. Target, Food Lion and Martins have joined in to help partner in providing food children need over the weekends.
Just this past week, BBT Bank (Charles Town-Ranson) presented a $3,500 dollar contribution this week to enable Bags of Love to continue feeding children week after week.
One Hope recently called a new Coordinator of Bags of Love, area educator and mother of four, Misty Francis. One teacher hearing the news exclaimed, “I am so excited to hear that you are leading this program. You already love our children through your teaching at Orchard View, now you are going to give your love to all our children across the region. Welcome!”
Donations of five dollars per week per child, is all it requires to feed a child over the weekend. One person can sponsor a child. One business or church may choose to support a school feeding 25-35 students. But each one of us can step up and make sure no child has to ever go to bed on an empty stomach. These are our children in our community who deserve our support one bag of food at a time.
For more information or to make a donation to help sponsor a local child or school go to http://www.onehopeministriesinternational.org/ or call 304-261-4007. Together, working in unity we make a difference every weekend.