Wichita’s homeless and hungry will have a continued source of food this winter and spring thanks to a campaign of generosity led by the children of Wichita First Church of the Nazarene.
The children’s ministry’s “Souper Bowl” food drive started a week before the Super Bowl when the kids encouraged members of the church to grab an empty shopping bag with a list of the most needed food items taped to the bag. Church members were instructed to fill the bag with specific items – soup, canned goods and other non-perishable food – and bring it to church on Super Bowl Sunday.
As church members arrived with their filled bags, the children – many of them wearing football jerseys – unloaded the donations from their vehicles. The donations collected restocked the shelves of Living Waters Ministries, the church’s food pantry, which offers food, a hot meal and a worship service for the surrounding community each Wednesday.
“We had lots of people bring all these bags full of items that Living Waters needed the most,” children’s pastor Paul Meinke told the congregation on Super Bowl Sunday. “So I wanted, first of all, to say thank you for your heart.”
Stephanie Zoeller had two children who helped with the food drive. As she took them shopping to fill their bag, she began to see how much her kids cared about helping others.
“The kids insisted we buy one of every item for the food pantry!” she said. “I love how big their hearts are and what an amazing job and impact their teachers at church have had on them!”
Living Waters Ministries director Susan Van Hook estimated the total goods donated at a little more than 2,000 pounds, which will help keep their shelves stocked for several months. The following Wednesday afternoon, Living Water’s doors opened with overflowing shelves to meet a larger-than-usual group of people requesting food, including Mary*, a young lady who came to the food pantry for the first time in need of groceries.
“I’m so glad people gave like they did,” Mary said. “Their generosity will help me eat. I’ve been sick and because of that I haven’t been able to work, so this is such a blessing for me.”
Volunteers scurried around to unload donated bags and place them on the correct tables and shelves in time for the afternoon rush. No one seeking food was turned away.
“Having this emphasis on Super Bowl Sunday really helped us serve all these people,” said Rowena Hinshaw, a church member who volunteers at the food pantry each week. “People were so generous.”
And it’s not too late for others to give as well.
“If you did not have the opportunity to give or bring some of these items, it’s not too late,” Pastor Paul said. “Living Waters will take your food donations anytime during the year.”
The Living Waters food pantry is open from 1-3 p.m. each Wednesday, and a hot meal is offered at 5:15 p.m. followed by a time of worship. After the meal, associate pastor Brad Riley led a devotional and four people were baptized that evening.
Living Waters is a benevolence ministry of Wichita First Church of the Nazarene, serving those in need in the heart of Wichita, KS. Kids CREW is our children’s ministry led by Pastor Paul Meinke. Find more information about Living Waters and Kids CREW at firstnaz.org.
*Name changed to protect privacy