Generally, I don’t post the stories that I write for print publications on my blog.
This blog is primarily focused on my personal opinions and experiences instead of the feature stories my clients commission me to write.
Today, I’m making an exception and I promise if you take the time to read this post and the article you’ll understand why.
Going into the event, all I knew was that a group of cattlemen had donated cull cows to help some needy families in their community.
When I arrived at Life in Christ Church in Marion, I quickly realized that there was much more to this story.
To truly appreciate this amazing program, please read the full text version of the Cow Country News story by clicking here.
The short version is this:
Robert Kirk, a local beef producer, approached Life in Christ pastor Chris McDonald with the idea of donating beef from cull cows to families in need in their community.
When McDonald’s mother-in-law told him about people her age who were living on a fixed income and having to choose between buying groceries or medication, they decided they’d focus their efforts on these at risk senior citizens.
In early 2011, they presented the idea to the Life in Christ congregation and the Hand Up Food Ministry was born.
In their first year of operation, over 50 farmers from Crittenden, Livingston and Union counties donated cattle to the Hand Up Food Ministry, providing over 6,000 lbs of ground beef to local seniors.
Today, the Hand Up Food Ministry is the sole provider of ground beef for the Pennyrile Allied Community Services, Inc. (PACS) senior centers in Crittenden and Livingston Counties, the Union County/Sturgis Rest Home and Cumberland River Homes, a residential facility for adults with special needs in Salem, Ky.
Additionally, the ministry distributes 120 “food boxes” each month to local seniors in need with the help of donations from local grocery stores.
Along with ground beef, these boxes include non-perishables such as pasta, bread, canned goods and paper/toiletry items such as toilet paper, tissues, shampoo and laundry detergent.
The farmers and volunteers in this program come from different counties and belong to different churches but have come together to help a generation that would never ask for help.
While I visited with the farmers and church volunteers who make this program a reality, I was amazed that though they are helping so many people, they are eager to expand the program and find a way to do more.
Other area churches are working with Life in Christ to establish “victory gardens” to add fresh produce to food boxes this summer.
In January of 2012 alone, the ministry received six cattle donations and several farmers have already promised to donate in the coming months.
Pastor Chris McDonald told me that people regularly approach him in town to give him monetary donations to support the ministry.
As a journalist, I was trained to find the emotion in a story but not to let it get in the way of unbiased reporting.
I can honestly say, I’ve never found that more challenging than when I visited with some of the recipients of these food boxes.
There was a woman who picked up several food boxes each month so that she could deliver them to her friends who were home bound and unable to shop for groceries.
She told me that if she didn’t bring them their food boxes, she doubts they’d ever ask anyone for help and would likely go without.
In the Cow Country article, I share the story of a man who was trying to care for not just himself but his 13 year old grandson on just his disability payments.
It took all I had not to cry as I watched this man tear up telling me about how after receiving his first food box he was able make tacos, his grandson’s favorite food, for the first time.
Though the ministry always prepares extra boxes, they have never had any left over.
Most gut wrenching was watching people walk-in and ask for a food box, knowing they hadn’t signed up and hoping there would be an extra.
It broke my heart to watching these proud folks stare at their feet, ashamed to ask for help but obviously seeing no alternative.
I am proud to call these farmers and volunteers my neighbors and even more proud to be able to share the story of their amazing ministry.
McDonald said he hopes to inspire others to start similar programs and that he’s more than willing to share what they’ve learned and help anyone interested in starting a program in their community.
Currently, the ministry is accepting donations of livestock (cattle, market hogs, etc…) as well as monetary donations to cover processing and transportation fees for the livestock.
They are also working with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife so that they will be able to accept donations of venison during deer season.
To learn more about the Hand Up Food Ministry, make a financial contribution or to donate an animal, contact Chris McDonald at (270) 704-6622 or Life in Christ Church at P.O. Box 296 Marion, Ky. 42064.