By Clint Confehr
Senior Staff Writer
At least 45 Marshall County public school students rely on the system's free breakfast and lunch program for their daily meals Monday through Friday and now their weekends include food from a church ministry.
Other churches and charities help hungry people, and the food ministry at LifeSong Family Church is among those, doing so with a different approach. Members and friends fill two-gallon plastic bags with food to be slipped into a student's backpack.
"Teachers refer children to guidance counselors and those names are referred to the powers that be at Jones Circle," Food Ministry chief Jeff Ellis said, referring to the central office of the county school system.
"We anticipated and planned for 40" children being helped, he said. "As it turns out, they gave us 45. We went from a program costing $1,200 a month to one costing $1,350 a month."
The Kiwanis Club of Lewisburg recently voted to contribute $500, he said.
On Tuesday night this week, folks filling the bags reported that the Methodist Women of Berlin contributed $250. The Junior Auxiliary of Lewisburg donated $150.
"This county is hurting," Ellis said of the effects of continued recessionary conditions. "Besides the Backpack Ministry, LifeSong is helping 40-45 families with groceries."
The two-gallon plastic bags are filled with cans that don't need a can opener.
"Everything is pop-top," Ellis said. "They have to be able to serve themselves without appliances."
That can include fruit rollups, raisins, cookies, Beanie-Weenies, SpaghettiOs, Slim Jims, ravioli, a couple of juice boxes, Capri suns, cereal and non-refrigerated milk.
The backpack ministry "was a government-funded program last year, up to the last couple of months of school," Ellis said.
"The Department of Children's Services was buying the product and giving it to the kids," he said. "When the funding ran out, we picked it up."
Ellis is clear that the church wants to not only help people physically, but also spiritually.
A dozen or more families have been helped by the church and being in contact with those people may eventually open a door when someone in the church might share something in their lives that could be of comfort and joy for others. Ellis declined to call it proselytizing. The religious message is always available. When it's shared depends on the recipient.