Christmas Food Project is life-changer for some
By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Purchase, pack and participate.
Those were the three ways that the staff at Brentwood Baptist Church encouraged its members to become involved in this year’s Christmas Food Project — an initiative that focuses on combatting food insecurity in Middle Tennessee.
The church responded in a big way, with roughly 1,000 people attending “packing nights” that were held at multiple locations on the evening of Dec. 13. The large group of attendees — which included members of Brentwood’s main and satellite campuses, along with invited friends and community members — helped pack and prepare boxes that included two weeks’ worth of meals. The boxes, which also included coloring books, a Bible, and other items, were then distributed to in-need families for the holiday season.
Vicki Howell, community missions minister at Brentwood, said the event was a great opportunity for volunteers to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus while also enjoying Christmas-time fellowship with their families and friends.
“We were able to see people of all stages of life — children, seniors, families, singles, groups, international communities, members of our leadership as well as people who were perhaps visiting for the first time,” said Howell. “(The volunteers) served together, laughed together and shared together, all for the purpose of meeting needs in Christ’s name right here in Middle Tennessee.”
It is estimated that 20 percent of children in Tennessee deal with hunger issues. Many of these children rely on school lunches as their primary source of nourishment. When school is not in session — such as the Christmas holidays — the hunger problem is more prevalent than ever.
The Christmas Food Project was designed for families who are dealing with those type of situations.
“What an honor it is to be part of such an opportunity,” said Howell. “I look forward to hearing stories from people as they continue to share about the ripple effects of this ministry.”
The “packing night” event at Brentwood’s main campus drew an estimated 600 volunteers. The event included members from the West Franklin and Deaf Church campuses. Additional packing events were also held at Brentwood’s other campuses — Station Hill, Avenue South and Harpeth Heights. The Woodbine campus received boxes and distributed to ministry partners.
Dave McDole, a member of Brentwood Baptist, volunteers with his family for the Christmas Food Project every year.
“(It) is an opportunity for parents and grandparents to teach their children how to exercise God’s love by providing food for those in need,” McDole said. “The items we place into boxes ensure that families will have a better Christmas season and give them a taste of the hope of Christ.”
Howell said the Christmas Food Project is designed in a way that makes it easy for all ages to contribute.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to be a part in some way,” she said. “For those who couldn’t come to pack, they helped by giving and/or participating with ministry partners who received and distributed boxes.”
Howell said that, through Christmas Food Project, the volunteers are “able to experience their own city and how to love people well in multiple ways — and that is exciting.” She also said she hopes the ministry inspires more and more acts that demonstrate compassion.
“We hope that this event is not a time for people to do one thing and then say ‘I’m done’ but rather a jumping off point for people to say ‘what is next and how can I be a part?’ ” she said.
Howell said she has seen first-hand the impact of the Christmas Food Project.
In one instance, the mother of a family called the church to say how much the ministry meant to her and her children. The woman said the box of food arrived on her doorstep at a time when she had less than $5 in her bank account — and knew that her next paycheck was still two weeks away.
“She called in tears to express her gratitude,” said Howell. “She said the box provided for her family for those two weeks.”
Many of the families who are reached by the CFP are likely in similar situations, and Howell believes the ministry can serve as a temporary solution to their most-pressing needs.
“The box isn’t designed to be the perfect holiday meal but rather a way to get to the next step,” said Howell.
Howell said she is thankful to the Lord “for allowing us to step into the gap and be a picture of His provision.”