By Ariel Worthy
The Birmingham Times
When Margaret Stringer lost all of her possessions in a house fire she moved into North Birmingham Towers. When it came time to feed her two sons went to International House of Restoration Outreach Ministries in Druid Hills.
The church’s lunch program ensures that children are fed lunch every weekday from 11:30 to 1 p.m. through its No Child Hungry Program.
“Something like this is a blessing,” Stringer said. “It’s important to get the kids a meal. Some of the parents have to go to work, and can’t necessarily cook. I hope they continue the program. It gives the kids somewhere to go. You know they’re somewhere good and safe.”
Kathy Robinson, 60, brings her three grandsons — three years old and younger — every day to the church.
“I was walking . . . and I saw the sign” for the program, Robinson said. “It was like God said, ‘come on in.’ We’ve been here since school let out. I love every minute of the program.”
The program has “been a blessing for everybody I’ve seen come through,” she added. “Certain children don’t have everything. Some are hungry just don’t want to admit it.”
Since city schools let out in May, the church has fed children beef stew, chili, sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs, fruit, granolas, yogurt, chips, crackers and popcorn through its program.
“We already feed the community twice a month,” said Joyce Felton, co-pastor of the church. “Every second Tuesday we do a hot meal and every fourth Tuesday we give away groceries.”
The idea for lunch came from Meyoka Carmichael, co-pastor.
“It was put on her heart to do lunches for children who might not otherwise have lunch at home,” said Felton.
Nearly 700 have been fed this summer and funds come mostly from church members, said Felton, who has seen the program help many single parents with household expenses.
“The children are excited. They run up the hill to come get their food,” Felton said. “People have lost their jobs and this has been a help to them. It’s needed to show them that we do care.”
Children who may have nothing at home get special attention, she said.
“We had one child who sat with a bottle of juice and said she was going to save it at home because there was nothing at home,” she said. “So we of course made sure they had extra food to go home with them. We always put a little extra in their bags.”
During the school year, children can get meals at school, but what happens once school is out? “Even though school is out they can still be assured they don’t have to be hungry,” Felton said.
Donnetta McMullen, a volunteer with the No Child Hungry program and an usher at the church, said it’s a blessing for the church to be there not just for the kids, but adults as well.
“We draw them in to the church with love and kindness. That’s ministry, that’s serving and that’s what He wants for all of us to do,” McMullen said.
The program ends July 31 but organizers are already planning for next summer.
“We want to see it bigger and better next year,” Felton said. “We would love to do it from a community center . . . hopefully more churches can network and we can go to a recreation center, a central location, all come together.”