Our Redeemer's Blog

Helping with Hunger – by Paula Hlastala

We are living through a time of change. It’s overwhelming and scary and new and different. But at the same time, some of things boiling to the surface right now are as old as our existence—hurt, hatred, hunger.

Feeding the hungry right now—it’s an overwhelming proposition; the need is unprecedented. Food insecurity has a huge effect on people, taking an especially high toll on young people who need nourishment for critical stages of development. But the effects are not just physical, like pangs of hunger and limits on growth. There are lifelong mental and emotional impacts as well, with bearing on the entire household, when they suffer a chronic shortage of nourishing food.

As servants, it’s our responsibility to see the needs and hurt hunger imposes, and acknowledge that. To use our resources to create new pathways in helping people, as well as supporting existing meal programs, food banks and soup kitchens with our energy, participation, and sponsorship. In this spirit, I’d like to share a plan for a new kind of feeding program. It’s been a kind of evolution, at first just wrestling with thoughts in my own head. But a call for action was clear—as our Pastors have reminded us recently, when you can’t get something out of your mind, and your soul is stirred by an idea you just can’t shake, it might be time to act.

Some of you may be familiar with my work in coordinating the Giving Tree for Our Redeemers for the past decade or so, and the decade before that, the Giving Tree for Calvary Lutheran pre-merger. This has been an immensely rewarding experience over the years– but every year, as the holiday season ends, it hurts my heart to see that NEED doesn’t end. The Giving Tree, in addition to our emergency drive to assist our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, inspired thoughts about doing something similar in spirit, outside of the holiday season. One takeaway from those types of servant experiences is that it can feel almost miraculous when folks band together to help, and critical resources materialize, often unexpectedly, but seemingly precisely, when those donations are needed most.

From this “just-in-time fulfillment” has evolved a program I’m simply calling FulFILLment— and though it’s a work in progress, its mission is to serve families suffering with food insecurity, and to provide aid, comfort, and hope. In addition to our amazing social justice community at Our Redeemers, I have found amazing partners at the Plus One Foundation. Plus One is a local non-profit with a long record of helping clients with neurological impairments from injury, disease or disorder. Although helping fight hunger has not been part of Plus One’s specific mission, they agree with the social justice stance that it’s hard to heal your heart, body and mind if you are hungry! So for this partnership, and the feedback of my ORLC community, I’m very grateful.

Once the program is up and running, FulFILLment distributions will be shipped to individuals across the U.S. regardless of race, religion, disability, or gender. They can apply for their household to receive a food box subscription in the form of a care package of shelf-stable, nutritious food along with notes of encouragement, small surprises, and recipes. Participants will receive 6 food boxes, with a shipment approximately every 2 weeks over the course of 3 months. (Or clients may also request a one-time delivery of single, larger box.) Using Priority Mail to get food to someone’s mailbox takes the burden of time, energy and logistics off of the recipients. And will also help to patronize the US Post Office, which provides us all a valuable service in reaching every address across the country for just the cost of postage.

Over the course of the subscription period, the main goal of FulFILLment is to provide families with healthy, non-perishable pantry staples, but another important goal is to develop a relationship with the people receiving care packages. After the subscription period of 3 months, those who request further assistance may be matched with other individuals or groups that would like to become pen pals of sorts, and the care packages and mutual correspondence might continue indefinitely.

If you are inspired to help people in dealing with food insecurity, please stay tuned to the social justice team at ORLC about ongoing opportunities with the Ballard Food Bank and Ballard Sunday Dinners. And if you have any comments about the FulFillment project or would like to keep posted as this program evolves, please feel free to check out Plus One’s web page https://www.plusonefoundation.org/ & join their mailing list, or contact me directly at paulala343@hotmail.com (also contact info under Paula Hlastala in the church directory.) Currently Plus One is helping to source funding and food resources, and we are drafting a mission statement for the collaboration. Hoping our first trial of 50 participants will be able to receive their introductory care packages in the near future!

I’m not sure where this road will lead, but grateful to be taking steps down that path– eager to see what FulFILLment might bring for folks in our community and beyond. Thank you for all you do to help others in need!










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