Several United Church of Christ congregations in Stark County, Ohio are showing their communities some love by joining forces to fight hunger as part of the Faith,In project.
Trinity United Church of Christ in Canal Fulton, St. John UCC in Massillon, Congregational UCC in North Canton and Grace UCC in Canton are “Filling a Semi to Feed the Hungry” this fall.
“We exist for the sake of making community,’ said the Rev. Glen Shedlock, pastor of Trinity UCC, of the partnership between churches in Faith,In Stark project.
The month-long nonperishable food drive began Oct. 13 when a semi-trailer/collection site parked outside Trinity UCC to kick off the church’s Fall Festival. After a week in Canal Fulton, the semi food collection effort was moved to St. John in Massillon for a week. Saturday, Oct. 27, the truck moved to a third stop at a large grocery store in North Canton, and will to Grace United Church of Christ on Saturday, Nov. 3, before returning to Trinity in Canal Fulton to wrap up the food drive on Nov. 10.
Members of the congregations, as well as students from local schools, are present each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to receive the food donations. That’s a lot of volunteers and a lot of moving around, but church leaders say they hope it helps fill the truck to overflowing, since there are so many families that need the assistance.
This week, the collection has been a challenge because of the weather, but Shedlock says the truck is filling up.
“At this point we are pleased to get the response that we’ve had, because the whole notion of filling the semi is totally out of the box. It’s not just about how much food was collected, it’s about starting a movement, looking beyond our single mission efforts at what we can accomplish as we work together. A whole lot more can be accomplished as we work together.”
The Stark County Hunger Task Force numbers show that one in four children in the county live at or below the poverty level. The food collected will be distributed by the task force to area food pantries, including Grace UCC’s “Just In Time” food ministry.
While the food ministry is a monthly project of Grace UCC in Canton, the congregation pulls it off with the help of neighbors and friends from other neighboring UCC churches in the county: New Vision UCC in Canton, Congregational UCC in North Canton, Trinity UCC in Canton and Grace UCC in Uniontown. Grace UCC pastor, the Rev. Jacquie McMillen, says that in October, “167 people received groceries to serve around 700 people. The need is great!”
The churches joint efforts to fight hunger don’t stop there. On Sat. Nov 3, Congregational UCC will host a cake decorating contest and auction, and on Sat. Nov 17, Trinity UCC in Canton will host a dinner, both to benefit the food ministry at Grace. Additionally, some of the Grace folks join with New Vision UCC to feed the hungry at a ‘Sunday Picnic’ each Sunday afternoon at a park in downtown Canton.
Shedlock says he has some great ideas on what can be accomplished if folks continue to work together. “There are 16 UCC churches in this county, with almost half already making a statement of cooperation and unity. Next year, who knows!”
Learn more about the Faith,In project at faithinproject.com.