By: Duncan McCollum, SLP Assistant Coordinator
Custer Road completed the seventh year of its Summer Lunch Program in early August. This year we were able to serve over 7100 lunches, 235 back to school back packs, and provide sponsorships to multiple families in need.
The program ran for just over two months and served approximately 150 lunches a day, although there was a great deal of variability in how many people showed up. Excluding the pizza party, we held on our final day, our busiest day had 255 people at the park. These lunches and the safe environment we create provide an easy to access, yet valuable opportunity for disadvantaged members of our community. There is one family of five who have been a part of the program since its debut. This year the mother informed us that in the last year alone the program had saved them over $2000 in terms of food and childcare. With this saved money, the father was able to complete his education and improve his career opportunities.
This year we were so lucky to have the return of our 2017 coordinator, Elizabeth Greer. Her return played a crucial role in building trust with the kids and parents, and fostering a true sense of community. Within just a few weeks she established a strong bond with all members of the program and they would not hesitate to come share their joys and concerns. One reason they would come to her is because they knew she would take action, whether it be contacting one of our clergy or seeking out support. The strong sense of fellowship also helped us to get program members into the church. We had several people join us for Sunday worship and the youth programs. Getting involved with the church also allowed them to access other resources such as Bed Start which provided furniture for a family of 6 who just moved from California.
We were blessed to have so much support from our congregants, Sunday school classes, and local businesses. Their support took multiple forms. Every day we had eight+ volunteers join us at the park helping load and unload, serve lunches, and playing with the kids. We had V8 juices, popsicles, and sports equipment donated which saved the program a great deal of money. We also had over 7500 water bottles donated to us by Nestle. Later in the summer we were concerned about a family who wasstruggling financially and were going to have a hard time getting school supplies and athletic equipment. Our Director of Missions, Stephanie Mills, put out a call for support to our Sunday school classes and received an overwhelming display of generosity. With the donations we received we were able to provide numerous families with assistance. This helped provide a sense of stability during the stresses of the back to school season.
Given the success and strength of the program we are very hopeful for the future. We have started exploring potential options for expanding what we are able to do at the park. There is a large number of young at-risk athletes in the program who would benefit from having more good role models. To address this, we have started discussing a potential collaboration with a non-profit which provides coaches who could fill this role and offer more activities at the park. Custer Road’s unwavering support has made this such an effective program and has given it the momentum to continue to grow and increase its engagement with the community.
We received this note from the YMSL Wildcat Chapter CRUMC Summer Lunch Liaison:
I just wanted to say thank you to you and your awesome team for allowing the YMSL Wildcat Chapter to serve with the summer lunch program again. It is a favorite volunteer opportunity for many of our members.
It impresses me summer after summer to see the same kids back day after day and the relationships you all have built with them…some of whom I assume don’t have any other interaction with church or are on their own while parents are working and they not only get lunch but they get to have people that care about them developing those relationships. I just love it! Thank you so much for what you all do and for allowing us to be a part of it!
“Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”- Isaiah 58:10
Share This Post