22 07 2013

East St. Louis Program Provides More than Food

By Laura Phillips, International Headquarters intern
Kids enjoying a snack at the Feed the Hungry Program

Kids enjoying a snack at the Feed the Hungry Program

Larry Drury, of Belleville, Illinois, felt moved to make a difference in the suffering he saw near his hometown.

“The statistics of East St. Louis [Illinois] were very alarming. Poverty levels were extremely high,” he said. So in 2010, he started the Feed the Hungry program with the assistance of a grant obtained through the Gateway USA Mission Center.

It seeks to provide meals for children during the summer, when they are not in school. Every day the program feeds about 65 schoolchildren and provides an all-day safe environment. If you go to the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, a summer school program that partners with Feed the Hungry, hordes of children will greet you, wanting to get to know you or play a game. A glance tells you they are glad to be there, though they don’t know the effort it takes.

It’s hard to run a program like Feed the Hungry when money is scarce. You can have all the love in the world, but if you don’t have funding, you can’t do much. That’s why Feed the Hungry started looking for grants. It discovered the World Hunger grant available through Community of Christ’s Mission Initiative of Abolish Poverty, End Suffering.

“We could not have survived or gotten started without the World Hunger grant,” Larry said. “We use it for food and supplies.

“I was so pleased when the Mission Initiatives came out, because it seemed exactly like what I wanted to accomplish. My original target was to make a difference in hunger and poverty in the East St. Louis area, but we have also taught disciples how to serve through working with the children.”

After playing basketball or doing a puzzle with the children, you can see the difference the program is making. They join activities that promote education and focus on building character.

“I want to show the kids alternative ways of life and that they are capable of doing it,” said Albert Hamilton, videographer for the Lessie Bates Davis program.

By partnering with the summer school program, Feed the Hungry can provide much more than a meal; it provides hope. It has big hopes for its own future, too. Leaders want to make it a year-round program so they can help even more children. They also want to provide other resources, like after-school tutoring or study programs.

“This has been one of the most exciting things in my journey of ministry,” Larry said. “I’ve been in the church for many years, but I’ve never been so close to the needs of people and felt like I’ve been making a difference.

“It’s rewarding to know that after we started, many other groups began similar programs. …More kids are being fed now because we started our program.”




%d bloggers like this: