The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 9, 2011

Offering a ‘hand up’

Feed the Neighborhood grows to meet a need

By Joe Malan, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID — In the late 1990s, World Harvest Church was looking for a way to get outside the walls of its church and into the community, where they could make a difference.

The church developed the idea of a festival in August where children could play games and win toys or candy.

But then organizers decided to give the children a choice between the toys and candy or school supplies.

School supplies were the overwhelming favorite.

Since that first Feed The Neighborhood event 12 years ago, the occasion has grown to involve more than a dozen churches and other organizations that donate money and vouchers so children can have backpacks and school supplies.

“It’s a big event,” said Brad Mendenhall, pastor at World Harvest Church. “This year, we’re gearing up for 1,500 backpacks to be given away.”

Last year, several thousand lined up at Government Springs park to receive a backpack and school supplies as part of the annual program.

Local companies also sponsored vouchers for shoes, socks and underwear.

It was the first time Feed The Neighborhood spread to two locations, as organizers set up at Crosslin Park, too. That location ran out of supplies about 30 minutes in.

“There’s a need in the community,” Mendenhall said. “We’ve geared the program to where we are distributing to kids’ basic needs. We’re helping someone get a hand up.”

Feed The Neighborhood will again be in two locations this year: Crosslin and Government Springs parks.

The 1,500 backpacks Mendenhall mentioned will be given away at Government Springs, while an additional 500 will be given away at Crosslin.

Local companies once again will sponsor the event. Continental Resources is helping sponsor backpacks and school supplies, and Cummins Construction sponsors shoe vouchers. First Presbyterian Church will underwrite the underwear and sock vouchers. AdvancePierre Foods will help sponsor the food.

For an endeavor this big, planning has to begin early, and it has, Mendenhall said.

“We start January of each year,” Mendenhall said. “The major work is always involved in purchasing supplies and backpacks, which Continental takes care of. They’ve been a great partner in this.”

Nine churches will help at Government Springs this year, while another six will assist at Crosslin.

“We’re hoping to get a few more churches and ministries involved,” Mendenhall said.

Wayne Bland, pastor at Grace World Outreach Church, said this year will be the fourth his church has been involved in the event.

“It’s grown and grown,” he said, “and it’s exciting to see the churches and businesses in the community can work together to fulfill a real need.”