|AUMC volunteers assemble meal packages for students' families.|
Lower-income families in the Annandale Terrace community have enough food to get through the weekend, thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers from Annandale United Methodist Church.
Once a week, church members gather at the AUMC Heritage Campus to put together 52 packages of food for students to take home. [That building, the former Immanuel Methodist Church at 7901 Heritage Drive, had suffered from declining enrollment and was taken over by AUMC in 2012.]
Eighty-one percent of the students at Annandale Terrace Elementary School are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. For many years various charities, community groups, and church members have provided “power packs” full of snacks sent home in the backpacks of lower-income K-3 students on Fridays, says Betsy Clevenger, the volunteer organizer of the Annandale Terrace program.
Two years ago, Fairfax County Public Schools social worker Jane Thatcher asked Clevenger if AUMC could expand the power pack program to grades 4-5 and add items for weekend family meals. The Children’s Ministry Lenten Mission Project at AUMC agreed to support the program.
The family packs include things like a box of spaghetti, a can of pasta sauce, a can of tuna, diced tomatoes, chicken, soup, rice, dried beans, and fruit.
Annandale Terrace Principal Andrea Garris and English-as-a-second-language teacher Laura Higdon identified the students. The packs are sent to the schools, and teachers put them in backpacks discreetly, so classmates don’t know who is getting them. A staff member provides cooking instructions in Spanish if needed.
“The families have been very pleased with the meals and thankful for the help with feeding their families,” Clevenger says. It’s a lot of work, but “it’s a labor of love.”
Another group of AUMC members, along with volunteers from other churches, provides dinner to 350 students in the after-school program at Poe Middle School.