Blairland Baptist Church members tried to do their part over the weekend for a community in need.
From noon-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, volunteers distributed meals to families while school is out until at least April 3. The church initiative came on the heels of local school districts coordinating efforts to give meals during the week.
Jeff Harris, director of student ministries, reached out to Loudon County Schools food/health supervisor Alison May about helping to fill a gap for families over the weekend.
“We can serve anybody,” Harris said. “So anybody that comes through, if it’s a carload of adults, we can give them a meal. We tried to keep the times the same, 12 to 1 (p.m.) because that’s what they’ve been doing all week at the different sites. ... We’ve just kind of coordinated our efforts with the school system.
“This is not sponsored by the school. It’s the church doing it, but we just wanted to partner with them and coordinate our efforts with what the school needed and the weekend was the gap that they had,” he added.
Friday’s leftover school meals were given to the church, and 20 volunteers — 10 each day — distributed the meals. Some church members even purchased meals to hand out.
“One thing, we had to cancel our community meal that we do the fourth Sunday of every month, so this felt like a good time because we canceled that,” Harris said. “So what we’re able to do since we’re not worried about getting reimbursed from the state, we can serve it to anybody. We can serve it to whatever age group.
“What we have left we can take to senior adults that we normally take meals to with our community meal, we can use them for that,” he added. “We can take them to different apartment complexes and things like that in the community.”
Harris said the effort was a good way for the “church to be the church.”
“A lot of things, we’ve canceled services, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still do church work,” he said.
The Rev. Jon Henson, pastor, said Blairland hoped to help the community in any way possible.
“I think for us from a biblical standpoint, we just believe in the goodness of God and we think this is one way that we can help people with doing what we’re doing,” Henson said. “The certainty is that we believe our faith and trust is in him and that he’s in control. It’s very challenging, very challenging days for everybody, and we’re all in it together. Everybody’s struggling, but this is what we feel like we can do. We can’t meet in public to worship, so what we’re trying to do is continue being the church even though we’re not meeting. This just really kind of shows you the church is more than just a building.”
Brett Foster, church volunteer, lent a helping hand Saturday. Foster serves as school nutrition director for Knox County Schools.
“One thing that I wanted to do when I found out we were doing this is offer my help just because we have a lot of experience in producing a mass number of meals at one time and also some food safety protocols just to make sure that we’re keeping the food safe that we’re handing out to families,” she said. “... I feel like we’re very lucky to live in a community that’s all hands on deck to help things progress like this and make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our families.”
Coming from a district that produces thousands of meals for students, Foster knows the importance of providing food to students who need it the most.
“They’re ready for anticipated breaks — spring break, summer break — they know there’s organizations that set up during those times, but when school is supposed to be open and it’s closed, that really puts a damper on what they can do and how they’re going to be able to provide meals for those students,” she said.
Foster is grateful to help in the community, especially in a time when some people are losing their jobs.
“This is a trying time for anybody,” she said. “People are losing their jobs right and left and people who might not thought had never thought they would be in this situation could be struggling to find food for their kids. I think that’s why it’s important that while the school system can carry that on during the week, if we can do whatever we can to help on the weekends.”