A chance to help the hungry

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November 26, 2013 - 12:00 AM

St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, 202 S. Chestnut St., will host its community Thanksgiving meal Thursday for the seventh consecutive year.
Serving will be from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with carry-out available. No charge will be attached but donations will be accepted.
Organizers stress the Thanksgiving Day meal is for everyone, not just the down and out.
“It isn’t just for people who can’t afford to go elsewhere,” said Sue O’Connor, a parishioner who helps organize the meal. “It’s fellowship for the community.”
Plans are to feed as many as 200 Thursday, but just 50 at a time because of the size of the dining area, said Donna Sifers, another stalwart of the church. Those who wish to carry out a meal should call 365-7306 on Thursday to alert church workers that they will be by.
The Episcopalians began providing the Thanksgiving community meal after the flood of 2007.
“We saw people out of work and with nowhere to go,” Sifers said.
“It was something that needed to be done for the community,” said O’Connor.

FOR 10 YEARS now the church has also provided monthly meals to the public.
Donations from each meal pay forward for the purchase of food for the next month’s meals as well as for weekend food supplies for elementary and middle school students, Sifers said.
About 80 students at McKinley and Jefferson benefit from the church’s program. Employees at Sonic Equipment do the same for 50 middle school and Lincoln Elementary students.
“Teachers tell us who needs help,” O’Connor said.
The Kansas Food Bank provides a basic allotment of food for the backpacks, but its donations lack protein. Local sponsors provide packaged protein items, such as Beefaroni — a concoction of beef and macaroni “that all of the kids like” — or Vienna sausages. Packages of peanut butter and cheese crackers also provide protein.
“We also usually add a little treat,” O’Connor said, such as a package of hot chocolate mix and a fruit cup.
Iola High’s FFA students distribute the sacks to schools.
The Episcopalians also have a program to help families.
“For some people at the end of their money there still is some of the month left,” said O’Connor. “We put together enough food to provide a family food for a week.”
The church members learn of those in need from several sources and aren’t concerned about who receives assistance, she said. “It doesn’t matter to us who gets the food, we just don’t want anyone to go to bed hungry.”
While O’Connor and Sifers have been involved with the programs from the start, the faces of other volunteers occasionally change.
“Some people get tired and that’s OK,” O’Connor said. “When that happens the Holy Spirit drops in another person and here we go again.”

HOPE UNLIMITED also is a recipient of the church’s benevolence.
Whenever fixings for a monthly or Thanksgiving meal exceed consumption, what’s left is taken to the shelter. Same is true for financial support. If the church has excess funding, it is used to buy personal hygiene items to help with Hope Unlimited’s mission.
It also has assisted with Hurricane Sandy relief.
“We put together boxes of things you’d need to start back up in a new house,” O’Connor said, such as kitchen utensils and even electric cords. “We include a Kansas Teddy bear in each box, so people know where the box came from.”
St. Timothy’s has sent seven boxes to the East Coast and is collecting items for two more.
Church members had a similar response when Greensburg was devastated by the tornado in 2007.
“Donna (Sifers) and I went out and helped walk fields” near Greensburg, looking for personal things scattered by tornado, O’Connor said. “People’s lives were lying out there in those fields.”
Relief boxes also were provided to Greensburg families.

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