Bethlehem Missionary Baptist feeds youth over summer

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 8, 2017

By Christian Coffman

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Cannonsburg feeds souls all year round, but this summer, the church fed tiny bellies as well.

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The church’s summer feeding program, funded by the USDA, began June 19 and will continue until next Friday.

Deacon Jerry Sims, the director of the summer feeding program, said the church has been excited about the program.

“Since we’ve had such a great response we plan on running the program for an expanded amount of time next summer,” he said.

Sims said this summer was a trial period to see what the response from the community would be and how many families would participate.

So far, volunteers have fed as many as 65 children a day.

“When we started out we had the max at 55, but we had such a great response that we increased the number,” Sims said.

“All the people working in this program are volunteers from this church: the management, cooks, servers, all of them,” chairman of the deacon board Samuel L. White said.

The food served to the children meets the USDA minimum standards, similar to what children would get in a normal school lunch program, with the menu changing daily.

White said part of the reason for the high turnout has been response from the surrounding communities.

“We have had great support from the Cannonsburg-Stanton community, and other churches have been very supportive (as well),” White said.

White said the program has been successful with just one more week to go, and encourages children 18 and under or children 19 and disabled to come to the program.

“Parents can bring in some, we use the church bus as well,” Sims said. “Our purpose is to bring children back into the church. This is a part of our outreach effort to meet the needs of young people in the surrounding areas.”

Sims and White agreed that their church should be seen as sanctuary not only to be used as a spiritual foundation, but through the feeding program, as a nutritional, recreational and social foundation as well.

“Which is very limited in rural areas, as we’re a rural church,” White said.

Pastor Tracy Cusic said his goal for the feeding program was to have an impact on the community, which has been greatly accomplished.

“The children and parents have been positively responsive to this because it gives them the opportunity to meet new friends and build relationships,” Cusic said.

The church is overwhelmed by the willingness of the board members and parishioners, Cusic said.“I as pastor would like to give a special thanks to members of our board who are volunteers for working so diligently, the local community and to all parents for allowing their kids to participate in this program,” Cusic said.