Eight years ago, Steve and Sue Cloutier began to investigate the possibility of bringing the Feeding America Program to Grace Church. They put many hours into learning how this program worked. They found a church in Holland that was serving the community through Feeding America, and visited Fourth Reformed Church to see how they set up this outreach. It was decided by the Outreach Committee and the Vestry that this would be a good program for us to put into effect at Grace.
We started by serving around 50 families. We offered them some light snacks while the truck was being unloaded and the food put out on tables. The only way we could get this food out to distribute was to put up tables in the parking lot. We worked in teams: some people outside and some inside to help our guests sign in and get ready to receive the food. For many months we ordered 5,000 pounds of food every second Thursday of the month. We were outside in rain and snow and we always had enough volunteers to get all the work done.
It was brought to our attention that our guests could not buy bathroom tissue or laundry detergent with their bridge card. A call went out to the congregation asking for contributions of these two items. We were able to give out the bathroom tissue and laundry soap with the 5,000 pounds of food. When our guests were told they would receive these items they gave us a round of applause in thanks. We now have an anonymous member of the congregation who provides the two items.
As the years went by, we have served up to 200 families. We were able to increase our food poundage to 7,500 pounds. We also have an extra 500 pounds of protein, usually chicken or Boars Head meat. This extra protein is also supplied by a member of our congregation. We have been giving our guests a hot meal for the last few years, and try to do something special for the holidays. If we have 160 to 200 families, we could have over 400 people to feed when you include spouses and children.
Feeding America is the largest outreach program we have at Grace. Many people are involved in making this work. It takes many volunteers to get the food unloaded and at times packaged. We have people in the kitchen making and serving food. This definitely takes a village.
Giving out food and having a meal with our guests has been a privilege and a learning experience for everyone involved. Every month we learn something new. We meet new people and make new friends. This was and is a very special work of the church and I am always privileged to be a part of this outreach.
Submitted by: Robbie Schorle