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Posted: April 3, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Feeding the hungry, one sack at a time

Submitted photo/

More than 500 free sack lunches were given out at Trailblazer Park in February and March by members of the Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal. The next date is April 25, noon - 2 p.m.

The prolonged economic recession is hitting Covington hard and many families can’t afford to feed themselves on a daily basis. That’s why Tom Rea and other members of the Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal began the "Sack Lunch Saturday" program in February.

On the fourth Saturday of February and March, church members made a total of 508 sack lunches and handed them out for free to residents in the neighborhoods surrounding Trailblazer Park on Clark Street.

"We chose to hand out sack lunches because food is a fundamental need," Rea said. "You really can’t do anything or be effective at anything if first and foremost you’re hungry. It’s just a common basic need, and people relate to that. Everyone understands what that means."

Even though residents are only receiving sack lunches one day per month, Rea said they’ve told him the program is making a big difference.

"Several people have said you just don’t know how much this means to me," Rea said.

"The difference is that this one meal is the meal for the day. A lot of people have young mouths to feed as well as themselves. We’ve had people come asking for three sack lunches and they walk away with eight. We’re not going to say you can only have one. We’ve had people who haven’t eaten the day before either. Does it make a difference? Yes, it makes a huge difference."

The next Sack Lunch Saturday sponsored by the Church of the Good Shepherd will be April 25 at Trailblazer Park from noon to 2 p.m. However, members from Covington First United Methodist Church are also planning to start their own Sack Lunch Saturday at Trailblazer Park on the third Saturday of every month. Gil Gainer, chair of missions for the church, said members from his church have already been helping out on previous Saturdays, and they are planning to have their first Sack Lunch Saturday on April 18.

The churches chose Trailblazer Park, because the park is a visible location in the midst of struggling neighborhoods. Mayor Kim Carter and Mayor Pro-Tem Hawnethia Williams helped Rea identify need areas and Trailblazer Park’s proximity to the Church of the Good Shepherd made it a good starting location.

Rea has been working with FaithWorks to spread the idea of the program to other churches, and he hopes some of those churches will soon start their programs around the city. For now Rea and Gainer are trying to expand their current services and they hope to keeping help more and more people in need.

Interested volunteers can donate food or time to the churches. The lunches consist of some combination of lunch meat sandwiches, potato chips, desert, fruit, vegetables and drinks. Churches or individuals interested in joining this program can contact Tim Graham, pastor of Church of the Good Shepherd, or Tom Rea at (770) 786-3278.

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