Monday, June 25, 2012

A baby with young parents, serving the military, and me-It is a God thing.
Please read.  It will take 3 minutes.

Two weeks ago, one night about 9:30 pm, returning from Walmart, I walked back into my house sobbing because my heart was completely filled with many emotions.  My husband looked at me confused, asking what is wrong as a trip to Walmart normally does not do this.

I sat down and told him the following very true, very moving story...I hope you will feel moved and called to action.

Upon finishing my shopping,  I got in a long checkout line in the non-food section.  I was there after 9pm to pick up a few last minute items for a children's activity at church.  I was behind a young couple, with a small baby sitting in the infant portion of the buggy.  They caught my attention. I was struck at how much the young man with his wife reminded me of my own grown children.  A nice appearance, the young man had on athletic type shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops, the young lady had on jeans and a hoodie, the baby was clean and dressed in a little onesie.  As I stood there, I noticed a little more.  They were wearing very simple wedding bands, and the dad kept putting his hand on the back of his wife and child's mother, saying "are you feeling ok?"  "Do you want to go sit in the car?" She did look in my opinion pale like she did not feel really great.  I heard her reply very nicely to him, "no I am fine" and smiled back at her husband.

Well naturally I started playing with the baby, making silly old lady sounds and faces to get the baby to smile and laugh.  The baby's dad (obviously a little girl by the pink onesie) occasionally touched the little baby and bent down to kiss her neck of which she just giggled and smiled.  At one point he looked back at me and I said to him, "that little girl certainly loves her daddy's kisses". He smiled and said yes.  The couple then gave their attention to counting the items in their buggy and began a sorting process counting out 10 jars of baby food, separating them in rows in the buggy.  Then it struck me that all they had in their buggy was jars of baby food and several canisters of baby formula.  The mom and dad appeared to be in low conversation like they were worried and checking twice everything they had.  I continued to play (at a respectful distance) with the baby.

While I stood there, I prayed "Lord this could be my children" and I felt in my heart that they were concerned about the amount in their buggy. 

A register right next to our line opened up.  I immediately looked over to the couple and said, “This register is open, ya’ll go ahead and moved my buggy so they could move pass me.”  The young man said to me, “oh you go ahead” motioning forward, but I replied, “no I am behind you-you go.”  I felt the Lord telling me (urging me) on to stay with this couple.

We got in the next line and the couple started placing the baby food on the register belt the same as they had separated in the buggy.  They added a coupon of some type on the top of each 20 or so jars.  They continued to give each other these worried looks.  The cashier started ringing the items up and about the 4th jar she looked at the woman and said, “This jar of mixed fruit cannot be charged to your coupon.  Your coupon only covers the single fruit jars.”  The young mother looked devastated and looked at her husband with this look that to me was interpreted as, “what do we do now”?  She placed her head in her hand and laid it on the check writing stand.  The young man, very sweetly asked the cashier, “We have gotten this same type of mixed fruit before, what has changed?”  The cashier stated that she was sorry and that it was possible some cashiers always don’t pay attention, but the mixed fruit jars of baby food are not covered.  The cashier said, “I am sorry but I have to obey the rules.”  He accepted this but the couple maintained their very worried looks.  As I watched, it appeared to me that more than half of the baby food jars were being put back in front of the register and taken off of the belt.   Their expressions to each other broke my heart.

I felt the Lord’s yearning again and a clear command, “move Denise, do the right thing.”  I immediately stepped forward, looking at the cashier, and said, “Please stop, add everything that you have put aside to my bill.  I am more than happy to pay for this.”  I looked at the couple and smiled saying, “This is something I want to do, please allow me to help you and this precious baby.”  The young mother’s eyes completely filled with tears, and she made her way back to me and hugged me very tightly saying “thank you.”  The young dad said the same and hugged me as well.   I told them and the cashier, “this is the Lord’s doing!”  I asked the parents did they need anything else such as diapers or wipes?  The mother looked at me and said, “no we have plenty of that it is just the food we were concerned about for her (the baby).”  She hugged me again. The cashier then told them they could go get more for one coupon, but I interjected and told the couple to put that left over coupon back in their wallet for another time and that I would take care of everything that was left. 

The young mother hugged me again and I reached into my purse and grabbed my Harvest Hope business card giving her one and said to them, “If you need anything else for this baby please call me”.  The young dad looked at the card and he came to me and hugged me with tears falling from his eyes.  Frankly, we all were crying.  He said, “Thank you so much! I am leaving in two weeks for the military and we are just trying to take care of much as we can before I leave, as transportation will not be easy for her.”  I immediately put my hand to my chest and felt the power of the Lord.  Here was a young man preparing to go fight for our freedom and doing the very right thing to take care of his family.  I grabbed both his hand and his wife’s hand saying with tears of joy, “You take care of yourself! You have a lot to return home for. ” I looked at the mom and said, “if you need me, please call me”.  They turned and both said thank you to me so sweetly, picked up their baby and walked away.

The cashier said to me at least 5 times, “thank you for doing that”.  I said, “It is everything the Lord does. I did very little but willingly stepped up as He led me”. 

Tears were falling quickly down my face almost rendering me speechless.  I loaded my bags and walked to the door.  As I got to the outside of the parking lot, I could not remember much less see where I had parked my car.  I stood there at the entrance pointed in the direction to my left, hitting the button on my remote to beep my horn.  Suddenly I heard, “Angel lady!  Angel lady!  Your car is right here”.  It was the young man and we were parked on the same row on opposite sides.  I yelled, “thank you” and he said again, “oh, we thank you.”

I got in my car, thanking the Lord that He allowed me to work for Him and prayed for this family, praying and crying all the way home.  The money spent was less than what most people spend on one meal going out to a restaurant.   This situation was not about me, nor about the money spent—both are inconsequential.  What was important was that the Lord did everything to put me behind this young family in line, and He moved my spirit to act as His follower to do the right thing.  I pray I did this all to His Glory!

This is what hunger is about.  This was a family worried about getting food for their baby, before the dad left to go fight for our freedom.  They needed help and help was provided.  I feel blessed that God used me in this way and pray that at Harvest Hope, our staff, volunteers and our donors understand how vital they are to make it possible to feed people every single day in many ways.  Whether it is assisting with our 400 agencies who depend on us for food, or helping the families that stand in the hot sun each day waiting at our own Emergency Food Pantries, or volunteering at one of 40+ mobile food pantries in rural areas, or contributing to our children’s programs or our senior programs—YOU are helping make this kind of assistance a real help.

As we approach our fiscal year end, Harvest Hope is $300,000 short of meeting budget, yet our demand is up over 21%.  If this story moved you, will you right now click here to make a donation to assure that we can continue to serve hungry families?  I hope you will hear the same calling that I hear, that you will be urged to move and do the right thing, right now. God is speaking, will you act? 

As we approach this July 4th weekend, we are mindful both to be thankful for you our donors, our volunteers, our sponsors, each staff person and for every agency out there in our 20 counties that continues the work of making sure no one goes to bed hungry.

My wishes for all families to be fed, our armed forces to return home safely, and for us all to be thankful for the freedoms we enjoy because of those who have fought and fight for our country.

God Bless you and God Bless America!  Happy 4th, Denise

Friday, June 1, 2012

There are many different ways to know the coming of each season.  We know summertime is here when the days are longer and hotter, mowing the lawn becomes a weekly pastime, everyone starts talking about their vacation plans and kids are home from school and plundering the kitchen cabinets for snacks all day long.

At Harvest Hope we know summertime is truly here when the waiting room in our Emergency Food Pantry starts filling to capacity first thing in the morning – everyday. We know it’s summer when the line of hungry people outside our buildings at Shop Road and 12th Street in Cayce stretch down the sidewalk, and we jump from providing food to 600-700 people a day to over 1,100-1,200 people a day. We know it’s summer when our agency partners need more food because their pantries are running out. We know it’s summer when we start seeing more families and more children at our doorsteps.

The first two days after Memorial Day we were greeted by long lines outside the EFP and saw so many faces of hunger at our doorstep before we could even open. We served over 850 families in two days. We know summertime is here and we know it is going to be long and difficult for so many families.

South Carolina is second in the nation for families suffering from food hardship, with 24% of our population struggling to pay for food. This summer families will struggle to replace the school meals that normally provide nourishment for their children. Seniors will struggle to manage paying for their medication and housing expenses. Working mothers and fathers will wonder what they can do to make sure they have a roof over their heads and reliable ways to get back and forth to their jobs while they worry if they will even have a job tomorrow.

To meet the needs of all of them, of everyone struggling with hunger from the Pee Dee, through the Midlands and up to Greenville and Laurens Counties, Harvest Hope needs to distribute over 5 million pounds of food in June, July and August. We know we cannot do it without help from compassionate souls in our SC communities, and we are blessed to have help from community partners who have helped us find innovative ways to make donating easier.

Wells Fargo is a very special sponsor giving the South Carolina Food Bank Association a challenge grant of $150,000 split between all of the 4 food banks if we can match it prior to June 15.  This is very important and you can make your donation double by taking just a minute right now to make a donation at

Other ways to easily help would be to visit a Corner Pantry station for gas or a snack, please also consider spending $1 or $5 and complete an "I HOPE" card for Harvest Hope.  This promotion is going on right now and throughout all of June at all 32 Corner Pantry filling station locations are selling our HOPE Floats mission cards. You can visit their stores in Columbia, Chapin, Lexington, Hartsville, Irmo, Manning, Orangeburg, Sumter and West Columbia and after filling up stop in to make an easy $1 to $5 donation by buying a HOPE Floats card and leave a simple message of your Hope. Last year this wonderful partnership gave us the means to provide over 23,000 meals to the hungry in our community, and with your support we hope to see an even greater result this June.

Most long-time Greenville residents are familiar with The Clock drive-in restaurants, which have been serving up great diner style local fare for decades. The location on White Horse Road has pitched in to help feed hungry families in the Upstate by selling HOPE Floats cards, so plan to cruise past and show your support when you’re in the area.

As summer is a time for families and family activities, Harvest Hope is proud to partner for the third year with Riverbanks Zoo and Gardens for Toucan Tuesdays. Every Tuesday this summer, two can visit Riverbanks for the price of one with a donation of two cans of non-perishable food to Harvest Hope. Toucan Tuesdays will run for 12 consecutive Tuesdays throughout the summer, ending on August 28.

Riverbanks Zoo visitors donated nearly 2,000 pounds of food during last year's Toucan Tuesdays campaign, which helped provide meals for those struggling to feed their families. This summer we’re hoping that visitors will enjoy the many attractions at Riverbanks Zoo and double that amount! 

We are more than thrilled to enter our second summer partnering with ABC Columbia and McDonalds for the ABCs of Hunger. Be sure to watch any ABC Columbia newscast for information and updates on the food drive, and drop off canned good donations at any of the McDonalds restaurant locations in Columbia.

This is also the time of year for Harvest Hope’s EXTRA Mile Campaign. The EXTRA Mile Campaign is our summer hunger relief program and offers a simple way for everyone to go the extra mile to help others during the summer months. All we ask is for everyone to skip a lunch just once a week until August 31 and donate the equivalent of a day’s lunch money to the EXTRA Mile Campaign. For example, $10 a week for 12 weeks would be $120, which would provide over 540 meals for a hungry family.

Take thirty seconds to think about someone who skips a meal not because they choose to or because it might be convenient but because the food is not there and they do not know where their next meal will even come from. Try to put yourself in that mindset for just thirty seconds, and then realize that’s the reality many people in South Carolina face every minute of every day.They fear there will be no food on the table at each meal and wishing will not change that.

If someone needs help putting food on their table – no matter where they may live in South Carolina – then they are a part of our community and we must find a way to help them. We must put food on their tables.

We are so grateful to so many community partners who provide many, many ways to donate to Harvest Hope. You can help us make sure we find the means to feed the hungry as summer begins.

Best wishes to you and your loved ones and thank you for all you do to help others,