Last week, our wonderful church hosted Vacation Bible School for 250 children. It was a great week filled with music, crafts, science, story telling and recreation! The children learned that they can be (super) heroes for God by studying leaders from the Bible.
I was lucky enough to be the mission donations coordinator. My job consisted of choosing organizations to support and determining which donations they needed most. Then, I compiled this list into a schedule for the week. Each day, the campers were encouraged to bring in specific items to donate to that day’s ministry. As donations came in, they were sorted, counted, boxed and then delivered to each ministry. We collected cash & coins all week and my awesome youth helper counted and rolled that money each day. I also had the pleasure of announcing at the daily closing session how many items the kids had donated that day. It was a really fun week!
In an effort to highlight some of the organizations we supported, I wanted to share a bit about what was collected and who will be receiving it. I was able to visit a few of the ministries to deliver the donations and was able to see first hand what wonderful things they are doing to serve our community!
Items Collected: 595 Children’s Books
Organization: Smart Lunch Smart Kid at Grace UMC in Midtown
Delivering the donated books at Grace UMC was a full circle moment for me. About 20 years ago, my church confirmation class (from Augusta) stayed at Grace UMC on our confirmation retreat. We camped out in sleeping bags in a few of the Sunday School class rooms. Fast forward 20 years, and I got to revisit this church as an adult.
Grace UMC is located on Ponce de Leon- a major thoroughfare for Atlanta. It is a quickly growing area with the new, shiny Ponce City Market close by and all of the boom of the beltline. It also happens to be surrounded by a homeless community, a government funded housing project, and low income senior tower apartments. Grace does a wonderful job supporting these communities through programs, meals, prayer, and worship. One ministry- the Women’s Community Kitchen- serves lunch during the week. It’s guests are roughly comprised of 1/3 lower income seniors, 1/3 homeless women, and 1/3 families from a local government housing apartment complex. It is very inspiring to be around a church that physically serves its neighbors- in it’s own facility- with so much love and encouragement.
During the summer, the ministry team participates in the Smart Lunch Smart Kid ministry that serves meals to children who receive free or reduced lunch during the school year. If it weren’t for these summer feeding programs, many children would go without lunch. The smart component is to provide books for summer reading.
I was a bit hesitant to take the almost 600 books to them- thinking that it might be overwhelming or they may not all be needed. Boy was I wrong! When I arrived, youth volunteers helped unload my car and then immediately started sorting, organizing and putting the books on their shelves. These books will be distributed to the children coming to eat lunch throughout the summer. The director said that their goal is to distribute 5 books per child. Research shows that five books over the summer will prevent the summer reading slide. With 700 families living nearby in the government apartments, they will easily distribute the 600 books from our VBS plus will need many more. So glad to see the books going to such a great effort. Praise God!
Items Collected: Over 800 toiletry items
Organization: Mountain View & Wesley Woods
Both Mountain View and Wesley Woods are low income senior residential facilities. Many of their residents live on less than $1,000 per month and are on food stamps. Unfortunately, food stamps do not cover personal items like toothbrushes/paste, toilet paper, shampoo/conditioner, soap, or other similar items. As we all know, these items can be expensive and are always needed.
Both organizations were so grateful for the donations!
Items Collected: 3,069 Diapers & 2124 Wipes
Organization: United Methodist Children’s Home
Anyone with a small child can tell you how expensive diapers are these days. This was the one item I was a bit worried about people donating. BUT, I was BLOWN away by the amount that God brought in through the VBS campers this day. Totally OVERWHELMED. The piles and piles of diapers just kept coming. We completely ran out of boxes to put them in. This was TWICE as many diapers that were brought in the previous year of VBS donations.
The UMCH provides a large sleeve of diapers each month to their foster families. This is to help off-set the expensive cost of diapering a child. VBS campers helped over 60 families with all of their diaper donations!
Items Collected: 400 lbs of canned foods + laundry detergent + baby wipes
Organizations: Caring 4 Clarkston and Toco Hills Community Alliance
This was by far the most physical day I had of volunteering at VBS! 400 lbs of food for our church’s Clarkston food pantry! I worked on my muscles by hauling, sorting, boxing, and wheeling heavy boxes to storage. Yes, it was a lot of work- but it was so awesome to see how much God provided for these two ministries!
Caring 4 Clarkston is a monthly food pantry that our youth group staffs and runs in Clarkston, GA. Clarkston has a large refugee population and we are happy to help support the community through non-perishable foods and baby supplies each month. The donations included pasta, mac n cheese, canned meats/fruits, pasta sauce, and a wide variety of many other pantry items.
Toco Hills Community Alliance is a fantastic, well run organization. They provide a hot lunch 4 days a week and have a large food pantry that allows guests to choose their own groceries. In addition to canned goods, they often supply fresh fruits/vegetables along with meat productcs. THCA also has a well organized clothing closet and provide utility financial assistance for those living in several zip codes. We donated laundry detergent and baby wipes to them through these donations. I was told that laundry detergent is always needed (not provided through food stamps) and baby wipes are always needed too. Many of their guests use baby wipes as a way to bathe.
While I was at THCA, the director said something to me that really stuck with me. She was talking about how she is limited to who they can serve (guests must live in one of 15 zip codes). She said if it were up to her, she’d serve anyone who needed anything because the gospel does not limit who can be served.
Donated: 221 pairs of socks + 150 first aid supplies
Organization: OGUMC Mobile Soup Kitchen & Mercy Community Church
Y’all, I think this is the coolest ministry. On Friday afternoon, members of our church load up a van with pre made sandwiches, snacks and a giant cooler full of soup and head to midtown Atlanta. They wheel this food around along Ponce de Leon Ave and serve folks at several different spots. When I think of Jesus living in Atlanta today, I would imagine him out serving lunch along this route. A wide variety of folks are fed- homeless, day laborers, and drifters- but anyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter who you are, you get a meal if you are hungry. No matter if it’s raining, sweltering heat, or freezing cold, this group heads out to serve their community. Isn’t that just the coolest?
Many of the guests who frequent this mobile food kitchen are always in need of new, clean socks. They often have cuts, blisters or skin irritations that require simple first aid treatment. These donations will go to help just that!
I loved serving as VBS missions coordinator!! I wish I could do this once a month instead of just once a year.
Thank you to all the VBS families who donated items and/or coins! Thank you for being God’s hands and feet on this earth. You have blessed so many as a result of your generous hearts this week!
learn & love, brooke