Congregations cooperate to send relief down the street and around the world.
THE SMALL COMMUNITY OF LOWES SITS BETWEEN MELBER AND FANCY FARM ON ROUTE 339 IN GRAVES COUNTY. IT HAS A POST OFFICE, A STORE, A HANDFUL OF RESIDENTS, AND A LARGE CORNER BUILDING FROM WHICH ONE COLOSSAL HUMANITARIAN EFFORT IS LAUNCHED.
Bread of Life, a humanitarian relief effort, is funded solely by donations, primarily from area Church of Christ congregations, but its leaders emphasize that the organization receives many donations from individuals, businesses, and other churches. “We simply could not do what we do but for the efforts and generosity of so many different people and businesses,” says David Meeks, Co-Director of Operations.
What they do is help people—from school children needing supplies just down the road at Lowes Elementary, to storm victims around the country, to the poorest people in Africa. “At first we were concerned as to whether we could pay the bills; then it took off faster than we could imagine, which is a great thing,” adds Meeks, who, like every staff person, worker, and board member with the Bread of Life, is an unpaid volunteer.
“We serve those in need locally, nationally, or globally,” explains Board Chairman and Executive Director, James Adams. “Most (physical) aid is provided in a 100-mile radius. We have, however, provided services as far away as Central Florida, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
“Several months ago when major storms hit Northwest Tennessee, our people were the first to arrive with help. In September, when the remnants of Hurricane Ike hit our area, the Bread of Life crew worked all afternoon that Sunday clearing downed trees and other debris.”
Adams explains that, when disaster strikes, the first move for Bread of Life is to contact a congregation of the Church of Christ in the area of the disaster, if one is available, and make arrangements to use their building and grounds as a staging area. “We also work very closely with the nearest government Disaster Coordinator,” he adds. Whenever the group travels, they take boxes of food and other items to give to whoever might need them. Each box of food contains enough non-perishables to feed a family of four for one week, as well as paper tableware, a can opener, and a Bible. In addition to the food boxes, Bread of Life volunteers assemble and distribute hygiene kits, school supply kits, and a kit of necessary items for babies.
Bread of Life also works with sister groups to provide services when distance or other limitations prevent the group’s physical presence in a time of need. “When the California fires devastated so much of Southern California, we sent funds to Church of Christ Disaster Relief in Nashville, as they had a fleet of trucks to provide the food, kitchen appliances, and other goods that were needed,” explains Adams.
“On the world front, we have provided funds and goods to Healing Hands International, also in Nashville, to provide help in foreign countries—from the Tsunami in Southeast Asia to the destitute in Central America and the Caribbean nations.”
Currently, Bread of Life volunteers are preparing a shipment of used school books, donated by Lone Oak schools, for children and families in Zambia, Africa.
Another project to benefit needy African children is the ‘pillow case’ dress project. Volunteers from a four-state area make small dresses from pillow cases, or from one yard of fabric. “Perhaps the most unusual project we have started to date is the ‘pillow case’ dresses,” says Adams. “No other project has involved so many people. Ladies who cannot easily leave their homes due to disabilities have made hundreds of these dresses. Our friends who deliver the dresses (in Africa) tell us this is the first dress most of these little girls have ever had.”
Bread of Life dates back to 2001, when church volunteers began working with the Church of Christ Disaster Relief Fund and Healing Hands International. In 2004, area volunteers decided to begin a humanitarian effort closer to home. The late Aaron Adams, an elder of the Melber Church of Christ, purchased a building and offered it rent free for the work. In early 2005, Andrea Orr offered the former Lowes Funeral Home building to Bread of Life.
The organization took possession of the building in December 2005, and within days took a shipment of over three tons of canned meats and other food to the Mississippi coast to assist victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Adams notes that all contributions to Bread of Life are tax deductible, since the organization is non-profit. He explains that when the organization’s current treasurer took office, he moved Bread of Life’s funds to Paducah Bank. “He had worked with Janice Cleary in his previous job and knew her to be a helpful person. Janice has offered invaluable advice to help manage our funds. As a volunteer, non-profit group, our job is to make the limited funds do the most good. A good banker such as Janice goes a long way toward reaching that goal.”
Adds Meeks, “Janice listens to what you have to say. I feel like I’ve known her all my life. In my opinion, Paducah Bank is a five-star bank.”
For information about donations and volunteer opportunities, or to learn more about Bread of Life, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 270-674-6262.