By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Feeding the multitude
Placeholder Image

For more than 24 years, the Bethlehem Baptist Church doors have been open in the summers, welcoming all children ages 4 to 12.

 Coordinator's Doris Benton, Drucilla Surratt and Mary Boston have donated their time and efforts to keeping children off the streets.

 During seven weeks each summer, the Youth Summer Feeding and Enrichment Ministry serves both breakfast and lunch, while developing children's everyday skills.

 "We welcome anyone," Benton said. "Our doors are open for everyone to come in."

 Benton has a big heart with a soft spot for children. She stays busy year round from working at Porterdale Elementary, to becoming a feeding program coordinator in the summer.

 "It's a lot of work, with no time off," Benton said. "We finish school and start the program a week later and run until a week before school begins back."

  Benton retired from Bellsouth in 1999 after 30 years of service and began working with the Newton County Board of Education. She started working as a substitute teacher and made her way up to full-time.

 Also playing the role of wife, mother of three and grandmother of six, Benton hardly finds time for herself.

 "It's a full-time job," Benton said. "Luckily I will have a week after the program ends to take a vacation to Valdosta and spend time with my daughter."

Benton spends every day, Monday through Friday working with the children - finding it hard to get away in the summer.

 "The program has grown so much since it first started," Benton said. "Now we not only feed them breakfast, but we take the time to enrich their skills. We work with them on their math and reading skills, while also teaching manners, etiquette and Biblical terms."

 With a daily routine of activities, the program begins with the children being picked up by funded busses.

 "It's a treat to be able to pick up the kids, but with the change in the economy it has gotten expensive," Benton said. "We will never be able to thank Snapping Shoals EMC for their generous donations they have made."

 The program, relying strictly on donations, then feeds the children breakfast before they start their daily activities.

 The kids are constantly occupied learning Bible stories from the more than 20 church volunteers or using the art supplies donated by Porterdale Elementary.

 "We try to keep them going all day," Benton said. "We go from arts and crafts to recreation across the creek where we let them play touch football or basketball. We like to think that if they are here with us, we are keeping them out of trouble."

 Being a firm believer that this program works, Benton recommends it to everyone.

 "My daughter went through this program and now my grandchildren are going through it," Benton said. "I want as many people who need it to come, with the good Lord willing we will always have food and a place to give them."

 Confident that God will always take care of her and the ministry, Benton has never been more proud of the way things are going.

 "It really is an amazing ministry," Benton said. "It is such a joy to see a child who has come through the program come back as a volunteer teacher."

 The ministry is designed to help people succeed and has already touched the lives of many children in the community.

 "I have seen so many children come and go through here, and have seen drastic change in each one," Benton said. "We are designed to help them. We teach skills in hopes to improve CRCT scores, we bring in the D.A.R.E. program to help make them aware of drugs, and we have Sunday school teachers to help teach them the gospel."

 She hopes donations will continue to come as children flow in the doors.

 "We feel that this is truly a great thing," Benton said, "and with the help of others it can continue to grow and remain helping people for many years to come."