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Posted: June 26, 2009 12:01 a.m.

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Local churches have handed out around 2,500 sack lunches to needy families as part of the Sack Lunch Saturday program, which started in February.

Tom Rea and other members of the Church of the Good Shepherd Episcopal started the program to help families struggling to feed themselves and the program has grown over the past couple of months.

Good Shepherd had their first Sack Lunch Saturday on Feb. 28 at Trailblazer Park and have handed out sack lunches every fourth Saturday of the month since then. Good Shepherd will be at Trailblazer Park again this Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.

Other churches have joined in the feeding effort and four churches are now running sites. First Baptist Church of Covington also serves lunches on the fourth Saturday of every month at West Street Baptist Church, at the intersection of West and Washington streets.

First United Methodist Church serves lunches at Trailblazer Park on the third Sunday of every month. Salem United Methodist Church had its first lunch give away at its church last Saturday at 3962 Salem Road. Rea said the church hadn’t committed to serving every month, but he said they seemed enthusiastic about Saturday’s response.

In addition, Rea said members from other churches including Allen Memorial Methodist Church have been helping out and the Solid Rock Baptist Church food ministry made a huge contribution in the past and is continuing to assist with food needs.

Rea said each location hands out about 200 to 300 sack lunches every Saturday. He said most of the lunches are handed out at the site, but church members also take lunches to surrounding neighborhoods in Covington. The lunches consist of some combination of a lunch meat sandwich, potato chips, desert, fruit, a vegetable and a drink.

Rea said he’s been impressed with the program’s growth and he hopes the program will expand to South Covington and out in the county.

"It’s encouraging to me that so many different churches and individuals have come together. (When we began,) I thought that if I got three or four people to help me do this it would be worthwhile thing; now we’re past three churches," Rea said.

Rea said that as the program continues to grow the churches are working on communication and planning.

"We’re still trying to develop relationships and we’re still trying to build the demand of locations versus available resources. We’re still feeling our way," Rea said. "It’s kind of my hope that it grows out more within the rural sections of the county, but we don’t have any control of that. We go as we’re led."

Even though residents are only receiving sack lunches one day per month, Rea said in April 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."

Interested volunteers can donate food or time to the churches. 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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