By Jo Ann Carpenter
If we only had food pantries in Stark County hundreds would still be hungry! That is a pretty profound statement. But it is true.
Did you know that some of the people we serve at Refuge of Hope do not have a stove to cook on, a microwave, pots, or even a can opener?
I remember Annie telling me she only had a hot plate in her apartment and she hid that from her landlord. The hot meals she received at Refuge of Hope were the only ones she had other than an occasional can of soup she heated up on that hotplate. She got tired of sandwiches and cold cereal all the time.
Kenneth shared with me buying food was a luxury he simply could not afford. What? A luxury? His income was so low he paid his rent and utilities and that is all he could afford. He also said without the meals he received at Refuge of Hope he might have starved. I still see Kenneth walking each day to the mission for his hot meal. He always says hello, followed with “thank you for the meal today.”
Many people struggling with mental health issues cannot always shop for food and do not have the ability to prepare a balanced meal. Families find it hard to prepare balanced meals consistently for their kids with limited budgets.
So you see how beneficial the balanced meals at Refuge of Hope become a whole population of hungry and hurting people in our community. Please don’t misunderstand me. Food pantries are a blessing. We distribute extra food for families to take home after our meal and it is helpful, but it certainly does not replace a hot, prepared meal.
Food insecurity is a real issue in Stark County and hot meal sites, like Refuge of Hope, are making a difference to hundreds of people every day. Hot meal sites provide nourishing meals and a comfortable, safe place to share a meal with others.
Another reason I believe in the hot meals we serve at Refuge of Hope is we know our program can help beyond just a meal. As a Christian mission, we have the responsibility to share the love of Christ with everyone we serve. In addition to the hot meals, we use the Meal Ministry to distribute warm clothing, blankets, personal hygiene items and so much more!
So what all do people receive when they come for a meal? Let me bullet point this for you:
• Hot, well-balanced meals
• Conversation with staff and volunteers
• Prayer partners
• Love, compassion, and respect
• The gospel presented along with prayer requests
• Encouragement and friendly relationships
• Access to our new Telehealth Kiosk
• WOW nurses from Aultman Hospital
• Shoes and boots
• New socks
• Warm clothing, coats, hats, and gloves
• Shampoo, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrushes
Our Meal Ministry is a meal with purposeful intentions. Now that we provide 8 hot meals to the community every single week, we are helping to eliminate food insecurity in our community and we are meeting other vital needs for people at our mission.
And let me take that one step further. As a Christian hot meal site, we have the chance to share God’s love with everyone. All of the hot meal sites I know of in Canton do just that. It is what makes this community impactful as we serve meals with a Christian purpose. What would be the point of just providing food with no love or compassion for dessert?
Hot meals and so much more is what we provide to each dinner guest 8 times a week. I love this ministry and how we always seem to go the extra mile to reach others through the Love of God!