Faith in Focus

Brown Bag Ministry wraps hope in simple packaging

ContributorJune 24, 2014 

Sometimes hope can arrive in a simple brown paper bag. That’s the goal of a local nonprofit called Brown Bag Ministry that puts together meals and toiletry items and places them in the hands of those who need them.

“Nine years ago Brown Bag Ministry was making 25 brown bag lunches a week, and last week Brown Bag Ministry made 3,000 brown bag lunches,” says David Legarth, chair of BBM.

BBM was created in 2005 when Apex resident Mary Jo Bukowksi was on a silent retreat and felt that God directed her to go and feed the poor. She and her friend, Patricia Hartley, began making lunches at home and delivering them in Raleigh.

Now BBM, based at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Apex, partners with five area churches, two nonprofits and two homeless shelters to distribute bagged lunches to the homeless and hungry at 21 locations in Wake and Durham counties. The five churches also provide work space on Saturdays to assemble the bags. The entire effort requires about 150 volunteers each weekend and clubs, groups and organizations often lend service hours to the effort.

"St. Philip wanted to be a site for Brown Bag Ministry because it gives families an opportunity to be Christ's hands and feet to our neighbors in need and to fulfill our mission of Come & See, Go & Serve," says Stacey Bell, who coordinates the BBM effort for St. Philip Lutheran Church in North Raleigh.

Volunteers at St. Philip pack hundreds of lunches a month and collect donated items as they needed.

" BBM has been a joy to the volunteers at St. Philip," Bell says. "It has given us a way to shift our focus outward to serving others. Involvement in BBM has shown us that by working together as a faith community we can accomplish big things for those in need. This formation of relationships and making a difference in people's lives is a very powerful and hopeful thing indeed."

Two times a month BBM provides a hot lunch at the Oak City Outreach Center in downtown Raleigh. A recent menu enjoyed by hundreds of people included asiago cheese tortellini, meatballs, marinara sauce with sautéed broccoli and rainbow chard, garden salad, rolls and cake.

BBM has traditionally been funded by individual donations and grants from community organizations. As the need to feed grows the nonprofit is beginning to seek out additional sources of revenue in the form of sponsorships.

“BBM currently has requests totaling an additional 650 brown bag lunches per week that we are unable to fulfill because of a lack of funding,” Legarth says. To fulfill the additional requests BBM needs to raise another $225 each week.

This weekend BBM volunteers will also be assembling bags of toiletries.

“Hygiene bags will be packed on June 28 for distribution that Saturday at the Oak City Outreach Center. Throughout the year BBM collects items from volunteers that are passed out on a request basis. In the BBM truck that serves the Oak City Outreach Center, BBM maintains over-the-counter medications and bandages, as well as shampoo, body wash, tooth brushes, toothpaste, razors, shaving cream, combs, deodorant and women’s hygiene items,” Legarth says.

Mission trip fundraising dinner

This Friday night the Vineyard Church in Raleigh will be serving up traditional Guatemalan foods. The Youth Missions team is hosting the Authentic Guatemala Dinner Fundraiser from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the church which is located at 6894 Litchford Road. The dinner is open to the public. Adult meals are $8 and children’s meals are $5 and there is an option to order “to-go” service and pick it up curbside. Proceeds will help fund a youth and adult mission trip to Guatemala next month.

National HIV Testing Day

On Sunday the Christian Faith Baptist Church AIDS Ministry will observe national HIV Testing day by offering the tests free of charge to the public. The church service that day is from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m and the testing takes places from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Christian Faith Baptist Church is partnering with the Wake County Health Department, the UNC Student Health Action Coalition and CAARE for this event. It will take place at the church on 509 Hilltop Drive in Raleigh.

The Taylors in concert

On Sunday night Hayes Barton Baptist Church is hosting a gospel concert at 6 p.m. The performers are the brother-sister quartet The Taylors. The Taylor siblings grew up in Lillington, North Carolina as the children of a Southern Baptist Minister. Their mother helped hone their four-part harmony around the church piano growing up. The Taylors now perform approximately 200 tour dates a year and have been the recipients of many awards and recognitions. The concert on Sunday is free, all ages are welcome and it will be followed by an ice cream social at the church on 1800 Glenwood Avenue in Raleigh.

Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus. Send her details of upcoming events at least two weeks prior to the event date via email: carla.turchetti.writer @gmail.com

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