The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 30, 2013

Churches, sponsors feeding a need

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — In August 1998, World Harvest Church was looking for a way to reach those in the community who needed help.

The Rev. Brad Mendenhall said the idea of Feed the Neighborhood started during those discussions, and last year the event reached more than 4,000 people.

It began in the church parking lot and spread to Government Springs Park and has since expanded to include Crosslin Park. This year’s Feed the Neighborhood will be 5-8 p.m. Aug. 11 at both parks.

Mendenhall said they are always searching for new partners.

“The first few years it was just us. We did it in the church parking lot, but it got too big,” he said. “One year he had it downtown  around the courthouse gazebo, but it wasn’t big enough.”

The first year the church gave school supplies, then it turned into a carnival-style festival for the people in the area. Feed the Neighborhood now features food and carnival games. Halfway through the first event, organizers ran out of school supplies. Mendenhall said kids were choosing school supplies over candy, and they realized there was a huge need. After that year, school supplies became the centerpiece of the event.

This year, organizers hope to give away 2,000 backpacks containing school supplies. They are hoping to do $15 shoe vouchers and packets of socks and underwear from Kmart if they receive enough sponsors.

They had to regroup when Continental Resources moved to Oklahoma City. The oil company was the program’s largest contributor. Hiland Partners has picked up the backpack program and Cummins Construction the school supplies, he said. Organizers are looking for sponsors for the socks and underwear vouchers.

Last year, 15 churches participated at the two locations to provide hamburgers and hot dogs, inflatable and carnival-style games, grocery walks and free haircuts. Last year, between 3,000 and 4,000 people came to Government Springs Park and more than 1,000 at Crosslin Park.

“It takes a lot of people. We have a work force of about 200 people, volunteers who help to pull it off,” Mendenhall said.

The original concept was to get outside the four walls of the church and do something to bless the community. It turned into a big event. Mendenhall said for every backpack they give away they become part of a bigger family. There may be three to four other people associated with the child, two to three other kids in the family who get a backpack.

“It adds up pretty quick. We try to meet a lot of needs. It’s impossible to meet them all, but we come together as churches,” he said.

The program is definitely an outreach for the church, and Mendenhall said he is excited by the number of people and the churches involved. When the Crosslin Park site opened up, it made the Government Springs Park crowd more manageable.

One concern is that last year they were not able to secure vouchers for socks and shoes, which may have kept some people away. He is confident this year they will be able to find the vouchers.

Churches involved last year were World Harvest, Grace World Outreach, Harvest Time, Covenant Life, Living Word Fellowship, Zoe Bible, First Presbyterian, Oakwood Christian, Willow View United Methodist, Willow Road Christian, Central Assembly of God, Mennonite Brethren, Seventh-day Adventist and Macedonian Missions.