Project Host and Christ Church collaborate to better serve Greenville community
“On April 1, I was having a check-in with Tobin Simpson at Project Host. He told me the story of how its food truck took 100 meals out to a mobile home park in southern Greenville County. One thousand people showed up. It’s a horrible story, but it’s easy to picture and easy to tell,” Kevin Mertens, Christ Church’s Director of Faith in Action recalls the exact moment he felt called to help.
By that afternoon, the parish’s rector, the Rev. Dr. Harrison McLeod, approved the notion to reopen the church’s kitchen as an effort to aid Project Host in providing meals for their clients.
Project Host was originally the idea of Christ Church parishioner Mary Moore Robeson and the Rev. Cannon McCreary in 1981. It has since become an entirely independent ministry. Today, the downtown soup kitchen serves up to 500 meals a day, six days a week. From 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., Project Host provides nearly 200 meals onsite for walk-in clients in the area. Certain partner agencies will come and pick up meals to give to their own clients. The remaining hundreds are loaded up onto a food truck that travels to under-served neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and trailer parks throughout the community.
In regular circumstances, local restaurants and grocery stores donate their extra food to Project Host, plus there are usually teams of volunteers ready to help. Now in the midst of the pandemic, with restaurants closed for dining-in and extra food flying off of the shelves in grocery stores, a new opportunity for ministry presented itself. Christ Church reopened their kitchen and found a safe way to get its parishioners involved.
“We sent word out that we needed food to help Project Host and by the next day, people were driving up to the church and dropping it off. They’ll stay in their car, and we’ll go grab it out of their trunks. The response has been amazing. They just want to know what they can do to help in the community; they’re tired of sitting on their hands with everything going on. In their normal shopping, it’s a way they can serve the community without having to get out there and worry about potentially unhealthy situations,” Mertens said.
Thanks to the leadership of Chef Karen Walker and Joyce Thompson (pictured below), Christ Church’s faithful kitchen ministry staff, and parishioners alike, Project Host has been able to provide more meals than it had previously. It is currently able to go into more under-served communities and provide more meals. As of today, Christ Church has prepared more than 13,000 meals for Project Host to distribute to those in need.
There have also been specific precautions taken to ensure those preparing and distributing meals are also practicing social distancing. Project Host and Christ Church are not using volunteers for now. In accordance with Bishop Waldo’s direction, there are never more than three people in the kitchen or any given room at Christ Church.
“This has been a blessing for us to live the Gospel of Matthew 25 and feed the hungry, while providing a safe ministry opportunity for our parishioners. The need will still be there when we are allowed to assemble again. We envision this as an ongoing collaboration and hands-on ministry opportunity at that point,” Mertens states.
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