What started more than eight years ago as a simple gesture to feed the poor and homeless at Thanksgiving has grown into a weekly occurrence at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church.
Approximately 20 volunteers provide “guests” a hot meal every Sunday beginning at 1 p.m. in the church’s Fellowship Hall.
“Sandy Springs United Methodist Church is the only place in our community where those in need can get a free hot meal and friendship on a Sunday afternoon,” said Jenny Byrd, chair of the church’s Outreach Missions Committee.
Nancy and Scott McCord helped create the Feed ‘n Seed program.
“We had become aware of the homeless population in our community,” said Nancy McCord. “We decided we needed to do more outreach than we had been doing in this church. In those early years, we were lucky if nine people showed up on a Sunday.”
She continued, “My husband said it doesn’t do any good to only feed people at Thanksgiving, so we started holding the community meal on the third Sunday of each month.” Feed ‘n Seed eventually morphed into a weekly program.
As the program has grown, so has the number of groups stepping up to the plate to assist the church, located at 86 Mount Vernon Highway, including Congregation Or Hadash, Dunwoody United Methodist Church, National Charities League, Mount Vernon Presbyterian Church, and the First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs. Publix, the Starbucks at Perimeter Point and the local fruit stand contribute food items.
After they eat, guests can get a haircut, take a shower, wash their clothes or pick out new or gently used clothing and hygiene items from the Open Hearts Closet, which is open most Sundays. Spiritual nourishment comes in the form of BLT (Bible Lesson Time). Informal English for Successful Living conversations take place around the various tables.
Organizers said they primarily rely on word-of-mouth advertising and a sign in front of Sandy Springs United Methodist Church to promote Feed ‘n Seed. Volunteers also distribute flyers in laundromats, in apartment complexes and within the Latino community.
“We’re hoping more people will realize we’re here,” said Byrd. “We have open doors as well as open hearts.”
The Rev. Blair Zant, the church’s associate minister, said, “Since the church’s inception, our mandate has been to reach out to the community. That’s what we aim to do with the Feed ‘n Seed program.”
Zant said some guests have found a church home at Sandy Springs United Methodist Church or at the Fountain of Love Methodist Church, which is a Hispanic congregation that meets across the street.
She added, “We want to be an advocate and a voice for compassion and hospitality. If folks feel like they can come, be accepted, get a meal and encounter some fellowship and Bible study, they’ll invite other people who are looking for those same things.”
For more information about the Feed ‘n Seed outreach ministry, go to www.ssumc.org.
By Sylvia Small