Church youth group starts freestore

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Need in community 'surprising,' participants say

By Phyllis McLaughlin

Teens in the youth group at Mount Byrd Christian Church in Milton saw a need in their community and decided to help fill it.


The need became apparent when some members had noticed other kids at school who didn’t have coats to wear on cold days. Others realized there are families in the area who don’t have enough to eat.

So, they decided to open a food pantry and free store. Starting with donations from adult members of the church, the young people set out to make it happen – to “pay it forward” by giving back to the community in which they live.

Shawna Jent, who with her husband, Calvin, leads the youth group, said Saturday morning, Dec. 11, that the youth began collecting items at the beginning of November. They opened the food bank in the church basement for the first time Nov. 13.

“They served 30 families,” she recalled.  On this day, she said, because they had advertised more, they hoped to serve 50 families.

By the end of the day, they had served 100 families.

Sherry Hudson, who helped sort out the food donations and package them together to provide several meals for each family, said this month they were also giving away turkeys. Church members raised more than $200 to buy 22 turkeys at the Madison Kroger.

Those turkeys went fast.

But God did provide for one family, who came late in the day, Hudson said. A man in a wheelchair came with his wife and asked for a turkey, but by that time, the birds were long since given away.

Before the couple left, however, another car drove into the parking lot and a man got out, asking if this was where the food bank was. He and his wife had brought a turkey and a bag of clothing, perfect for an infant boy.

The group was able to give the turkey to the couple who’d asked for it, Hudson said. She added that another family had come seeking clothing for an infant boy. The free store had none, but the bag of clothing that came with the turkey was filled with – you guessed it – clothes for an infant boy.

Witnessing these exchanges has been eye-opening for the teens involved.

“I feel like we’re doing the right thing for Christianity,” said Marissa  Ford, a seventh-grader at Trimble County Middle School. “I believe the people at school will feel safer with us being beside them.”

Raven Hudson, an eighth-grader at TCMS, agreed, and said she and her co-workers are trying to donate as much as they can through the store.

“I’m surprised how much people need,” Hudson said.

Chelsea Scott, a senior at TCHS, admitted that she’s always been one of those kids who always focused on what she wanted for Christmas each year. This year, her outlook has changed.

“This is the first Christmas I’ve realized how much I actually have and how much I’ve taken for granted,” she said. “I have a job. I don’t have to, but I like having the responsibility. I’ve rededicated my life, because I realize what I have.”

At church Sunday, Calvin Jent told the congregation that Scott had gone one step further with the project. The week before, she cashed in her most recent paycheck and spent the entire amount on toys at the Dollar Tree, which she then donated to the freestore, he said.