Photo: Marge Hartgers and Tina Lemons volunteer at Heat of Worship's Pay It Forward Clothes Closet, where 50 boxes of donated food was available to anyone free of charge on July 7. The church is partnering with The Salvation Army to bring this food "recycling" program to the area once a month moving forward.
Jasper County’s Breadline Day – known locally as “Free Bread and Sweet Treats” – drew an appreciative crowd who loaded their bags up with free bread, baked goods, deli items, and more at Heart of Worship’s Pay It Forward Clothes Closet located at 403 East Street in Lynnville July 7-9.
Free bakery and deli items – even seed packets and cat food – were distributed free of charge to anyone in the community. This unique and beneficial service made its inaugural debut at the Pay It Forward Clothes Closet on June 22. It was met with such an overwhelming positive response that Heart of Worship organizers brought it back in July and plan to make it a monthly event moving forward. The next Breadline Day distribution event will be Aug. 10-13.
Breadline Day is organized by The Salvation Army in Newton. The Salvation Army partners with Walmart and HyVee to donate bakery and deli items that are close or right at the expiration date to local communities. “It’s an effort to get free food out to the community that would otherwise get thrown away,” said Denise Staecker, Heart of Worship member. She helps lead the organizational charge on the Breadline Day’s collaboration with the Pay It Forward Clothes Closet whose mission is to “Be like Jesus.” Rhonda Pool, wife of Heart of Worship Pastor Tom Pool and coordinator of the church’s food pantry, echoes Staecker’s statement regarding the effort to get food to the community that would otherwise be thrown away. “Sometimes there is a stigma about people utilizing the food pantry,” said Pool. “We never want people to feel any kind of shame. We are here to help, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. With the Breadline Day, people don’t feel like they are getting handouts. Rather, this is a community-wide effort to recycle food. We’ve had people of all kinds of economic standards come and take advantage of the service.”
The Pay It Forward Clothes Closet is just one of several community donation centers who partner with The Salvation Army for Breadline Day. The communities of Baxter, Colfax, and PCM have also been recipients of the donated goods.
Heart of Worship’s first Breadline/“Free Bread and Sweet Treats” Day at the Pay It Forward Clothes Closet on June 22 drew a positive response from locals. Of the 45 boxes full of bread, pastries, and deli items, only a couple boxes were left by the end of the day. “We were overwhelmed!” said Staecker of the amount of donated goods and also the response from the community. July’s haul of 50 boxes of donated goods included a wide variety of items – rolls, cake, cupcakes, pies, deli meat and cheese, rotisserie chicken, chicken wings, mashed potatoes, and more. There were even boxes of crackers and cans of cat food that were distributed due to the boxes being damaged. Flower and vegetable seed packets were also distributed – the goods offered each month varies. “You never know what you will get!” said Staecker.
At the most recent Breadline Day in Lynnville, 43 appreciative families took advantage of the service and by the end of the week, only two boxes remained. Pool reports when everything was tallied, it was determined July’s haul blessed 223 people.
The collaboration with the Salvation Army has been beneficial for several Heart of Worship missions to show love to the community. While “shopping” the wide array of free goods through the Breadline event, guests are also welcome to fill their bags with gently-used clothing and shoes from Pay It Forward’s Clothes Closet. Also at each Breadline event, Heart of Worship distributes 10 boxes filled with non-perishable food items and laundry detergent to families in need on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Pool is working with Salvation Army’s Ed Poe, a long-time acquaintance of her family, to set up a consistent monthly schedule similar to what other Jasper County communities are doing. The next Breadline Day or “Free Bread and Sweet Treats” will be held at the Pay It Forward Clothes Closet Aug. 10-12, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and 9 a.m.-noon Thursday. The event is open to anyone in the community, regardless of need. Staecker reports the Clothes Closet will be open as well, and people can “shop” for food and clothing at the same time. Although the Salvation Army can only distribute to Jasper County communities, once the goods are delivered, anyone may take advantage of the free service. In addition to locals, Staecker reports the event has drawn people from as far away as Guernsey and Sigourney.
“It’s great to be able to reduce landfill waste by getting food and clothes out to anyone who wants it. It’s all about recycling, taking care of our land, and taking care of each other,” said Staecker.
Pool agrees and thanks the community for not only taking advantage of the service, but for giving so generously to Heart of Worship missions. She, along with Staecker, acknowledges the many church volunteers who have stepped up, the owners of the downtown Lynnville building who are allowing Heart of Worship to house the clothes closet there free of charge, and the community members who keep the clothes closet well supplied with gently-used clothes, shoes, and non-perishable food for those who could use a helping hand.
Pool spoke to and thanked attendees of the Sully Christian Reformed Church and Sully First Reformed Church’s joint VBS program earlier this week. Their offering will benefit the Heart of Worship food pantry, which is located within the church and available by appointment. Pool is grateful for their giving hearts and said the passage of Matthew 25:31-40 has been a resounding message as she has led the charge with the food pantry, which is located within the church. “This is truly a community effort of serving our people. We all have our strengths and are working together,” said Pool. “I’m just so overwhelmed by the community’s generosity and how this service has grown, it has grown beyond our expectations.”