By Sean Edward Hall
For the last couple of years, Grace United Methodist church has been providing free lunches for children during the summer. They knew that sometimes the only hot meal some children eat, was lunch during the school year and they wanted to ensure that those in need would continue to have that opportunity. Pat Pennel can be credited for spearheading and getting the program going. She worked tirelessly to schedule volunteers and coordinated with a government program that provided all of the food and most of the funding that Grace would require for the lunches. This governmental program, however, came with many guidelines and rules that hindered Grace from making it a complete ministry. Last year, talk began that perhaps Grace should try running the free lunch program on their own without the assistance of the governmental agency and their guidelines. The free lunch program was originally scheduled to end approximately 2 weeks before school resumed, so Grace decided extend it for those two weeks entirely independent. It was a success and they moved forward this year by working diligently to make this a new and well-rounded ministry for the Jacksonville area!
The program began on June 8 and will run through August 14. FREE, hot, healthy, nutritious lunches are being served Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. in the church’s basement. Janelle Bishop, the licensed cook, plans a diverse and balanced meal each day. Already they’ve had great meals like: home-made spaghetti and garlic bread, vegetable soup and sandwiches, make your own taco bar, home-made pizza, and one of the kids’ favorite…chicken nuggets. She also makes sure that there are salads and fresh vegetables and fruits available at every meal.
There are also activities planned to provide opportunities for socialization and learning! On Tuesdays, Beth Fender will lead a Bible lesson. On Wednesdays, Sean-Edward Hall is directing a Summer Choir. They will sing each week, sing during a 2 worship services, and at a mini-concert in August. Children who participate will NOT be required to sing at any of the performances…this is optional…and the choir is open to drop-ins. If you have a child visiting you during the summer or if you know a child that has other commitments, like camp or sports; but, they like to sing…they are welcome to come any Wednesday and join us. On Fridays, New Directions will be hosting an Arts and Crafts time. There are also daily drawing for prizes and no child goes home empty-handed. There will be a GRAND PRIZE drawing at the end of the entire program.
There are several ways that YOU can get involved. Janelle is happy to accept any and all gifts of fresh produce from your garden, or the farmer’s market, or your favorite grocery. She is also looking for delicious deserts. If you would like to volunteer to help serve or clean-up, please contact Grace UMC’s office Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at 217-245-9521. Grace UMC has a Safe Sanctuary policy in effect.