By Jo Ann Carpenter
How many times have we said those words? I know I used to say “I’m starved” a lot. But one day I realized I have never been that hungry in my life! When I miss a meal, yes, I am hungry but starved? Never!
But I do know people who have known serious hunger and what the word starved feels like. Over the years I have met so many people who did not know where their next meal was coming from. They went to bed hungry and woke up the next morning with no idea what they were going to eat for breakfast or lunch.
I remember the first time I met Rachel and her five children. When she walked into the Refuge of Hope dining room she looked very nervous. As she was seated with her family, she told me they had just been relocated to Canton to avoid an abusive husband and father. She basically moved here with nothing and was referred to Refuge of Hope for meals. By the end of the meal, the family was smiling and took some items off our give-a-way shelf for the morning. And they came back for many months until they were settled.
Kenneth told me that food was a luxury for him! A what? Food a luxury? His monthly income barely covered his basic living accommodations and utilities. Just knowing he could come to Refuge of Hope for regular meals gave him comfort. I still see him walking down to share a meal with us every evening! And he always has a smile on his face when he says Thank you!
Russell told me, “You get your belly full here!” That was the best compliment ever, from our 90+-year-old dinner guest.
Most recently Anthony and Joy shared with me how the meals at Refuge of Hope help them as they are struggling with a new baby and no jobs. They told me that the give-a-way shelf helps so much but this particular night the peanut butter was all gone and they only got bread. Well, looking at 4-year-old Skylar, I immediately went to the pantry and pulled peanut butter and jelly to give them.
I love helping people and when I worked in the meal ministry loved cooking for them. I used to say, “No one goes hungry on my watch!” And that is still true today. There were times when the flow of people coming through the doors at mealtime seemed to never end. The volunteers would say we are low on vegetables. I reminded them to use a special spoon we referred to as the “fishes and loaves spoon.” It was just a larger spoon with smaller holes but it always seemed to multiply the veggies and we didn’t run out.
Refuge of Hope has added two more meals since 2009. We realized that no one was consistently serving dinner on Tuesday or Friday evenings! By adding those meals we have given families and individuals two more meals each week!
Always going the extra mile to help people is what we started so many years ago. Our kitchen motto is to serve every meal with love, compassion, and respect!
It has been a privilege to serve God by serving others at Refuge of Hope. And prayerfully we are making strides to eliminate hunger in our community. When I am tempted to use the words I am starved, I stop and thank God that I know where my next meal is coming from and now so does the Refuge of Hope family!