“If parents and their siblings can’t make it to the dinner, then we put together a ‘take-out’ meal and bring it to their homes,” explains Judith Christiansen, who coordinates the effort. Many of the children live in a mobile home park not far from the church.
Christiansen says the program evolved over its first year of operation. “After Christmas we decided to engage the children in preparation of the food,” she says. “Each Tuesday a different child becomes ‘chef’ for the day. The chef picks the menu. We’ve had Taco Tuesday, French Toast, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and homemade pizza. The chef helps the program director prepare the meal by measuring out ingredients, read cooking instructions and does the stirring, when appropriate, learning all the while. The chef sits at the head of the table and gets to hand out dessert for everyone. The children love this!”
Trumansburg is a few miles north of Ithaca, NY, where Cornell University and Ithaca College are located. “Many people who live in Trumansburg work at those institutions,” Christiansen says. “Trumansburg is also a farming community and one with a population that is at or below poverty.”
The congregation is very mission-minded, Christiansen continues, making a significant difference in the community even though it has only about 100 members. “Members of our congregation help at local food pantries. Our youth group serves a monthly luncheon at the Ithaca Rescue Mission, and the Homeworker Helper outreach through its service to children and parents creates a bridge to those in need within our community as well as a bridge to the local school.”
“We applied for the Grant to provide food for the initiative,” Christiansen explains. “When we began we really didn’t know how needy many in the community are. We found out the snacks and dinners we provide meet a desperate need. Our congregation has been able to help in other ways. For example, we discovered one family did not have a refrigerator. Our church donated and delivered one to them. At Christmas we ‘adopted’ two of the families we serve and provided gifts and food for their family celebrations.”
When Christiansen asked some of the children about the kind of difference the Grant has made, one child responded, “Tell them you help us be better.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/