Editor’s note: The 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention will hold its annual meeting this November in the heart of Appalachia. This article is part of a series looking at some of the ministries Kentucky Baptists might want to visit in the days before and after the annual meeting, which will be in Pikeville on Nov. 13.
BENHAM, Ky. (KT) – Harlan County, located in the southeastern corner of Kentucky, is home to the highest point in Kentucky, Black Mountain, and to some of the richest coalfields in world. The population in 1940 was over 75,000 and today it is around 28,000 with one third of these living below the poverty level.
On a mission trip to Harlan County in 2006 we learned that many students did not have food to eat on the weekends. Teachers were noticing that students could not stay awake in class, especially on Mondays.
After talking with the students it was learned that the students were hungry because they had little to no food on the weekend. Each school has a Family Resource Youth Service Center to aid the students and their families in meeting some of their basic needs.
Sacks of Love Ministry began working with these centers to provide weekend food bags. The food bags include non-perishable foods, which do not require refrigeration or cooking: beanie weenies, Vienna sausage, potted meat, small boxes of cereal, Pop-Tarts, cereal bars, fruit cups, applesauce, juice boxes, and powdered milk. Jars of peanut butter are given out once a month when available to schools that are not peanut-free. Some centers have food available during the week if there is a need. The centers are open during summer break and students can get food then, also.
The majority of the food items distributed are purchased from the local Food City grocery store and are purchased by monetary donations from individuals, churches, and associations, among others. On occasion, food items are also donated. The food orders are delivered to each school as needed. Food bags are packed by students, local church groups, or mission teams.
Although our main focus is providing weekend food, hygiene items and school supplies are also collected and distributed to the school resource centers as needed. One girl, on receiving a new toothbrush, was so excited she did not now have to share a toothbrush with her sister.
To date we are assisting eight centers with 400 students involved with the weekend food bags each week with many more benefiting from school supplies and hygiene items. The schools allow faith based materials to be included in the food bags. Labels with Bible verses are attached to the jars of peanut butter.
Some of the faith based material distributed is made possible by a grant from the Eliza Broadus State Mission Offering.
Please keep the Resource Centers, the students, and their families in your prayers. Also pray that finances will be available to meet the needs of those served. May they know that their needs are being met by God.
“If you give some food to feed those who are hungry and to satisfy the needs of those who are humble, then your light will rise in the dark, and your darkness will become as bright as the noonday sun.” Isaiah 58:10
Judy and Frankie Caulder are the directors of Kentucky Sacks of Love, a ministry to the poor in Harlan County. Email them at email@example.com or call 606-848-0092.