HOPEWELL — With a helping hand from many community members, such as business owners, Girl Scout troops, the Moose Lodge and various youth groups, those in need of a meal will be fed.
Laos Outreach, a mission of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, has a ministry and shelter on Poythress Street in Hopewell, and now, under a new partnership with the CHANCE program, Laos will offer a meal five days a week.
Mike Dawson, who formed Cruisers Helping Abused and Neglected Children Everywhere, has been feeding those in need for many years with holiday meals and various events throughout the year.
At last year’s holiday meal, Dawson fed 245 people and was able to hand out presents to children as well. He wanted to reach out to feed more in Hopewell.
Elder Kenneth Branford, of Laos Outreach, said the new partnership is an extension of the CHANCE program. He also said the shelter on Poythress will be the central location for the CARITAS program in the coming year.
Under the program, churches in the city will house the homeless for a period of time and after that time, the group will be transferred to another church.
“The hungry, the homeless, the lost, they will have a place they know that at 6 o’clock we can go down here and eat five days a week,” Branford said.
Two local churches, St. James Catholic Church and TLB Ministries, will be helping to hand out meals on the weekends in conjunction with Laos Outreach.
Though the adults involved in this partnership are lending a helping hand, the youth in the community are spearheading this new endeavor.
“This is something that we’re trying to do, is to get our young people involved in civic duties,” Branford said. “So that they have a positive thing that people can see what they’re doing.”
Dawson echoed Branford, saying the youth are going to be the “backbone” of the project.
Girl Scout Troop 585 will be providing a meal every Friday, the Hopewell High School Interact Club will be serving a meal once a month on Fridays, and Dawson said some athletes from the high school are going to be involved as well.
Mike Dawson, with CHANCE, serves food.
The new partnership will also be run by Dawson’s daughter, Mackanzie, 13. Though shy about talking about her role in the project, she keeps a smile through the first meal with the partnership at the shelter on March 24.
“I have things that other people don’t and when I see them outside or anywhere and they look sad it makes me very sad,” Mackanzie said.
That evening, along with Micah Chatman, 10, handed out food to those in need. They both smiled, laughed and shared a word with those coming to get a meal at the shelter.
Anthony Bennett and his wife, Kim, the owners of the Laos Outreach building, were at the first meal on March 24 and both spoke highly of the new partnership.
“I think this is wonderful,” Kim said. “We need more projects like this in Hopewell. It’s great to see our youth get involved with our community.”
Though Mackanzie admitted she is a bit overwhelmed by the new project, her father Mike will be sitting close by, ready to lend a helping hand. It is also clear Mike is quite proud of his daughter.
“Not many 13 year old kids want to do something for somebody else for nothing,” he said.
In addition to the youth, the churches, the CHANCE program and Laos Outreach, businesses in the city have also gotten on board to help those need get a meal.
The Moose Lodge will provide two meals a month, Wing Town will serve two meals a month, Sub Hub is going to donate two party trays a month, and Stone’s Diner will serve hot dogs and french fries once a month.
Though the program is new and is just getting under way, Mackanzie is excited to get it going and feed those in need.
“It’s great because it’s making people happy and when they see me they know who I am,” Mackanzie said. “It makes me feel special and they don’t get it all the time and when they do they say thank you their face lights up and they really mean it.”