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Motel ministry feeds children

Jalyn Young, 8, enjoys eating a pepperoni pizza provided by Tucker
First United Methodist Church. A UMNS photo by Lori Johnston.

By Lori Johnston*
July 29, 2009 | TUCKER, Ga. (UMNS)

Jalyn Young, 8, cracks open the door, excited about the weekly pepperoni pizza delivery.

He walks just a few steps to a bed, plopping down to devour two slices of pepperoni pizza in his family’s dimly lit, 450-square-foot room at the Northlake Inn.

Claude and Liz Grizzard distribute
slices of pizza into boxes for delivery.
A UMNS photo by Lori Johnston.


Members of Tucker First United Methodist Church make the free pizza delivery. Church members began delivering lunch to children at the budget motel during school breaks in December 2008 after learning about the financial hardship of the families that rent rooms on a weekly basis.

The meals comfort nearly two dozen children like Jalyn, who moved with his mom into the suburban Atlanta motel three years ago after a divorce.

“When I know that they are giving me something that you really can’t get a lot, it just makes me feel happy inside,” he says.

Most of the children receive breakfast and lunch during the school year through government-funded meal programs. But during breaks, food is not guaranteed.

“That’s an added chunk onto the grocery bill every week,” says Jill Young, Jalyn’s mom. “The meal program really helps because I don’t have to worry that he’s going to not be able to eat.”

God’s blessing

Robin Pounds, a teacher who coordinates the Lunch Buddy program, modeled it after a similar effort started by her neighbor, a member of a different denomination in another Atlanta suburb.

“We actually were surprised that there were children right here in our own Tucker community that maybe didn’t get enough food to eat,” she says. “And we were really thankful that this group of kids was the ones that we could reach out to right here in our community.”

Youth members assemble bags of
cereal, Pop Tarts and fruit. A UMNS
photo by Robin Pounds.


Some guests arrive at the motel after being evicted from their homes, a situation that’s becoming more common as foreclosure rates continue to rise, says Northlake Inn manager Joanna Bean. Others have moved to Georgia from out of state and are unable to afford an apartment deposit.

Five restaurants and a supermarket provide the food for free or at a minimal cost. Youth group members prepare cereal, Pop Tarts, granola bars, fruit and milk to be delivered on Mondays when school is not in session.

The 60-70 adult volunteers work in daily shifts to pick up pizza, sandwiches and other meals from restaurants on weekdays and deliver the food.

To continue the program through the summer, the church collected $4,500 through individual donations and a bell choir fundraiser concert.

“This was a big deal because we didn’t know if we could pull this off or not. We raised the money and had more than enough money,” says the Rev. Sharon Watkins, senior pastor at the Tucker church. “This is a ministry that God has truly blessed. It is truly loaves and fishes.”

Giving thanks

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Rachel Hamilton, who moved into the motel with her daughter and grandchildren after relocating from Texas, says the plentiful portions also help save money on other meals. “Sometimes we don’t even get dinner because they eat so much lunch,” she says.

After the volunteers bring the food to the motel, Bean delivers the food to the rooms. “(Jalyn) looks forward to it,” Jill Young says. “He watches the clock around 11:30 and he starts listening for it.”

The church is also blessed, Pounds says.

“We’re hoping that this Lunch Buddy program meets their needs in some small way,” Pounds says. “And it’s also brought awareness to our congregation that there are people right here in our backyard, right here in our community, that we can reach out to in this very small way and show them God’s love.”

*Johnston is a freelance journalist based in Watkinsville, Ga.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.  

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Tucker First United Methodist Church


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