Volunteers focus on service to others –
Story and photos by Patricia Beech –
Jan. 23 – It’s the fourth Monday of the month and a small crowd has gathered outside the Outreach Center on Nixon Avenue in Peebles. Young and old, they wait, chatting in a friendly, neighborly way – waiting for the doors to open.
Inside, Outreach volunteers from the Peebles Church of Christ have prepared a hot dinner and stocked the Center’s clothing room with winter items. They’re taking care of last minute details before they begin serving those waiting outside the door.
The kitchen crew, led by cook Dave Gable, is busy packing chili and peanut butter sandwiches into brown paper bags.
“Delivering hot meals to shut-ins and the elderly is an important part of our ‘In His Hands’ food ministry,” says volunteer Linda Rhoads. “We encourage everyone else to come in and share a meal here at the Center.”
Debbie Robertson, one of the team of volunteers who delivers the hot meals, says at times the job has led her down roads she didn’t know to the homes of people who didn’t expect her.
“Knocking on the wrong door and discovering that there is a need in that home happens sometimes in this job,” she says as she packs the dinners into a large insulated bag, “We’re the only visitors some of these folks have, and it’s just a blessing to talk to them, to get to know them, and find out what their needs are.”
The Outreach Center’s “By His Hands” hot meal food ministry was the brainchild of volunteer Brandi Persch who says the idea came to her in a dream. She shared her idea with members of her Women’s Circle Group.
“I told them what I wanted to do and Sandy Bailey spoke up and said ‘I’m supposed to help you with that,” Persch says. “Sandy and I, with the help of many volunteers from the church, served twelve people at our first meal on Memorial Day, May 25, 2009, and it’s continued to grow since then.
“As we served others it became clear to us that there was a real need for clothing in our community,” says Persch, “That opened the door for ‘Tabitha’s Clothing’, and shortly thereafter we started the ‘Lydia’s Girls Group’ for teen girls housed at the Wilson’s Children’s Home.”
Initially “By His Hands” and “Tabitha’s Clothing” were based in the Peebles Church of Christ and a nearby residence, respectively. Both quickly outgrew the space allotted to them. “We had plenty of storage space, but not a good place to serve the people,” Stephanie McCoy recalls. “So in 2013 the church elders decided to purchase the town’s former community building for the ministries to use to be able to reach out further into the community.”
In 2013 “Tabitha’s Clothing” was moved into the new Outreach Center, and in January 2015 “By His Hands” volunteers served their first hot meal in the new facility.
“I’m overwhelmed by the Center’s success,” says Persch. “I never imagined it going this far, I thought it was just going to be about providing hot food, but we have accomplished so much more than that.”
Other local churches have also joined the Outreach effort according to Rhoads. “We have volunteers from the Peebles Church of God who brought foam delivery trays, disposable dinner plates, plastic cutlery, and napkins as part of their Vacation Bible School missions this past year, and the Grace Fellowship Church donated canned goods they had left from their after-school program.”
The Peebles High School FFA has also been a valuable contributor to the “By His Hands” ministry. “For many years now the FFA has donated frozen chickens for our hot meals from their Start to Finish Chicken Project, as well as leftover fruit, cheese gift boxes, and BBQ sauce from their FFA fruit sales,” Rhoads says. “From time to time, their members help us serve to log community service hours for their SAE projects.”
The willingness of local groups and individuals to offer their service to the Outreach Center comes as no surprise to Jason Bohl, pastor at the Church of Christ. “Jesus often said the greatest among us is the one willing to serve, and He insisted that greatness is not found in elevating yourself, nor in stepping over others to grasp and take, but in doing something kind for someone else,” Bohl says. “As a church we are simply trying to work for the good of all people, serving each other and serving our community.
Rhoads agrees that the work is something others seem to want to share.
“We have seen many of those who came for meals return later as volunteers to help serve and deliver the meals to others.”
The “By His Hands” food ministry and the “Tabitha’s Clothing” ministry are open to the public the fourth Monday of the month from 5:30-6:30 p.m.