Led by Pastor Shawn Kaeser (far left), children use a parachute to flip balls into the air at the Canaan Community mobile home park. Plain City churches coordinated games, lunch and faith-based lessons for youths over a five-week period this summer at Canaan Community and Green Meadows.
At Maranatha Community Fellowship, a crew of volunteers prepped 100 servings of noodles and meat kebabs, celery and carrot sticks, and angel food cake with peaches. Meanwhile, volunteers at the Canaan Community and Green Meadows mobile home parks led games of clothespin tag and jumbo kickball and illustrated the Bibles good samaritan story by showing children how to ice cookies then give them away.
It was June 29, and it was a typical day in the five-week summer activity and meal outreach put on by Plain City area churches June 11 to July 13. The free, two-hour morning program took place Monday through Friday and targeted children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Participants received a basic breakfast and full lunch and were invited to join in group activities.
“Its so good for enrichment, team building and structure—like what kids get in school, but its faith-based, said Shawn Kaeser, pastor at Darby Grace Brethren, a participating church.We get them moving, get good food in them, and let them know they are loved.
The Plain City Church Fellowship initiated the program last year when Plain City resident and now retiring Monroe Elementary School principal John Lanka told them of a similar program in Hilliard.
“Last year, we did it for four weeks each at Green Meadows and Pastime Park, Lanka said.
Attendance was high at Green Mead-ows because children living in the mobile home park could walk to the activities and meal site. Transportation issues seemed to keep attendance down at Pastime Park.
“So, we got the idea to make the second site at another trailer park—Canaan Community, Lanka said.
Tracey Kaeser of Darby Grace Brethren fills cups with celery and carrot sticks for one of the programs lunches.
Both sites buzzed and hummed this summer. Twenty to 30 children participated at each site each day. Supporting them was a well-oiled volunteer- and donation-driven machine.
“We asked the churches to volunteer for a week of programming or food prep. They then recruited volunteers from their own congregations, said Sharla Hershberger, a program board member.We have had around 25 volunteers each day to run the program, between the two sites and the food preparation. Many of the churches volunteered for multiple weeks.
All of the food prep took place at Maranatha Community Fellowship. Local businesses including Dutch Kitchen, Der Dutchman, Yutzys Farm Market, The Cheese House and Lovejoys Market do-nated food, as did several churches. Food also came from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. Once the food was prepared, volunteers delivered the meals to the two activity sites.
Churches that provided programming, games and food prep included: Alleluia Lutheran, Darby Grace, Maranatha Community Fellowship, New California Presbyterian, Plain City United Methodist, Pulse Christian, Sharon Mennonite, Shiloh Mennonite and Transformation Zone (made up of youths from various churches). Donating food were Darby Grace, Shiloh Mennonite, Sharon Mennonite, Plain City Presbyterian and St. Josephs Catholic Church.
“I think the thing I have appreciated the most about this program is seeing all the churches coming together in this way to serve our community, Hershberger said.
Volunteer site coordinators Jessica Loveless at Green Meadows and Babs Graber at Canaan Community witnessed on a daily basis the programs positive impact on children.
“On the first day, a little girl who came with her brother said she had been up since 5 in the morning because she was so excited to come, said Loveless.It shows its something they look forward to and something they enjoy.
The food is definitely a big hit, Graber said. While volunteers made more than enough meals for the number of children who took part, no food went to waste.
“The food gets eaten. Any leftovers go home with (the children), Graber said.
To help with next years summer activity and meal program, contact Pastor Bob Yoder at Sharon Mennonite Church, (614) 873-8290, or John Lanka at (614) 315-4357.