|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.
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
Claude and Liz Grizzard distribute
slices of pizza into boxes for delivery.
A UMNS photo by Lori Johnston.
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
“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.”
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.”
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.
Youth members assemble bags of
cereal, Pop Tarts and fruit. A UMNS
photo by Robin Pounds.
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
The 60-70 adult volunteers work in daily shifts to pick up pizza,
sandwiches and other meals from restaurants on weekdays and deliver the
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.”
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 email@example.com.
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