Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of stories about community partners who are helping to assist local people in need.
Story and photos by TAZ HALL
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — It’s a Saturday morning and 800 people in cars are lined up outside of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church.
They’re a day early for Pastor Terrance Moody’s Sunday morning service, but that doesn’t matter. It’s not a blessing they have come to receive. It’s Saturday, and just like every first and third Saturday, these people have come from all over Johnson County to receive two weeks of groceries free of charge.
Harvest of Hope is a food distribution program through Manna Harvest, a nonprofit group with a vision to “be a community movement designed to assist those who are financially challenged or living in poverty,” according to their website.
For more than five years, Manna Harvest has supported Johnson County’s homeless with the help of local church groups, University of Central Missouri students, and various other volunteers.
Moody said 15-25 volunteers show up to lend a hand during each Saturday distribution. He said most of the volunteers are members of groups who schedule specific months or dates for their service.
Shirley Briscoe is the volunteer coordinator for the Manna Harvest program. Harvest of Hope is just one facet of Manna Harvest. Briscoe also schedules volunteers for Nehemiah Feeding, a program that provides free meals four nights a week. Since retiring from her 30-year career as a laboratory technician for UCM’s health services in 2011, Briscoe said she spends five days a week working as Manna Harvest’s volunteer coordinator.
Volunteers for Nehemiah Feeding commit to one day of service per month over a span of 52 weeks. Scheduled volunteers work as a team to cook and serve food to patrons of the program.
“We’re not really looking to give handouts,” Moody said. “We’re looking to give a hand up.”
Nehemiah Feeding is a place where people and families in need can come to be together and have dinner with some dignity. Upon arrival to Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, customers are given a menu and have their order taken by a volunteer server. The food is brought to the table instead of being served in a chow line.
“It gives them a since of integrity,” Moody said.
Evening meals are served 6-7:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Moody said Manna Harvest’s short term plans are to add Friday to the evening meals calendar as well as cooking classes for both adults and children. These classes will be part of Manna Harvest’s mission to encourage self-sufficiency in the people that they serve.
“We hope to be able to move forth and get another building where we can actually become a distribution center,” Moody said.
Manna Harvest currently rents their space for evening meals and distribution from Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. Moody said if Manna Harvest owned their own building, they could host evening meals seven nights a week and connect with agencies in surrounding towns to extend food distribution beyond Warrensburg.
One volunteer, Doug Conley, said he noticed that a particular demographic was overlooked.
Conley is a social worker at Warrensburg Middle School. He has partnered with teachers Sarah Hudson and Brooke Mannering to provide 49 Warrensburg Middle School students with weekend meals.
The three faculty members enlisted the help of Mannering’s eighth grade family and consumer science class. Once every week, the class meets to create an assembly line where students fill bags with snacks and meals that they call Tiger Bags. At the end of the week, Conley, Mannering and Hudson place Tiger Bags in the lockers of the designated students.
“We have had to secure our own resources to make this happen,” Conley said. “We have partnered with Open Door in Sedalia, Bob Vickers and the United Way in Warrensburg.”
In addition to these donations, the Tiger Bag program receives funding from Hank and Marilynn Hammon.
Conley recently secured a grant from Wal-Mart to help supplement their program.
“We still need to go once a week to purchase additional items and so we need funding support to do this,” Conley said. “That is where the Hammon fund helps and now the grant from Wal-Mart will also assist.”
Programs like Manna Harvest and Warrensburg Middle School’s Tiger Bags is operated by volunteers. For information on how to get involved with Manna Harvest, contact Briscoe at 660-747-5608 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.