The Heritage Baptist Fellowship hall is quiet and tidy now. A few days ago, it hummed with the activity of a multitude of people making sandwiches, packing lunch bags, scheduling and organizing delivery routes that cover the northwestern quadrant of Cherokee County.
The children of Cherokee County returned to school this week, signifying the end of summer. Many of them come back with a vague knowledge that “those nice people” delivered weekday lunches where they live. These volunteers delivered 18,503 lunches between the last day of school in May until last Friday, the day before school began again. That is more than 3,000 lunches per week, 600 lunches per day for children during the summer.
Compassion drives this group of volunteers. I was raised a Southern gentleman and would never refer to a person’s age, it is uncouth; the vast majority of this group carries the moniker “retired,” although they prefer “experienced.” They are anything but ‘retiring;’ burning with desire to accomplish the gargantuan task of feeding hungry children whose main source of daily nutrition is the school cafeteria.
School food programs are open in the summer to children who attend summer school. Many do not have a way to school and are faced with hunger on a daily basis. These workers, via Cherokee County MUST Ministries, work diligently to make sure children are fed. They don’t just work at it; they demolish the daunting challenge.
I defer here to Marguerite Cline (see her Friday column), our retired school superintendent. She is chronicling her own personal experiences with the summer lunch program. Miss Marguerite was one of many driving forces from Heritage Baptist Fellowship which serves as the northern distribution site for the county. This site depends on donations from their members and many other churches for sandwiches, setups (everything in the lunch bag except the sandwich) or an entire set of lunches.
Kevin Williams, owner of Chick Fil-A of Canton, was speaking to the workers at Heritage. His stores and employees had provided everything for that particular day: meals, packers, route drivers and two cow mascots.
Kendall Jones, Cherokee County coordinator for MUST Ministries, told me that Mr. Williams told the Heritage workers “we are doing this today BUT you (pointing to the regular workers) do this every day — thank you.” Mr. Jones went on to say that since his involvement with MUST Ministries “many of the same people who began at Heritage are the same people I see today.” That is a tremendous amount of time, resources and energy to be committed daily throughout the summer.
I asked Valerie Cohen, secretary at Heritage Baptist, for a list of volunteers and she said “you’d have to ask Virginia, she would know everyone.” Now for my secret, I knew Virginia Land was a driving force behind this massive effort but I wanted to hear it from another source.
I asked Miss Virginia for a complete list and in her own unassuming way she listed herself last, as if she was not an important part of this mission. Virginia Land, a retired school teacher from Hickory Flat and Clayton Elementary, lives in Waleska, is a dedicated worker of all things Heritage Baptist, serving as deacon, singing in the choir, and is a familiar face at all efforts of our church. She is the ultimate worker bee, the epitome of “service above self,” her quiet and heartfelt prayers each week opens our minds and touches our hearts. She gives generously of her time and resources to the church and community and is the most dedicated, spiritual and humble person I know.
What connects them all together? A resilience to give to others when their own life may not be perfect is one reason.
There are no magic answers or deep seeds of wisdom tossed about here. Maybe the volunteers of the summer lunch program give as they do because they feel blessed, maybe they see an opportunity to soothe some pain, maybe they are spiritual giants; most of us would say “they are just good folks.”
There were many volunteers and I cannot name all of them here. For a complete of volunteers please see the blog - http://harryd-lifeaccordingtoharry.blogspot.com.
David Harrison is a minister of music, former band director at Sequoyah High School and frequent blogger.