Roy Exum: The Last Of The Snack Packs

Thursday, May 22, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

At 9:30 Wednesday morning a special group of people loaded 250 bags of snacks into the back of a truck and took the carefully-packed paper bags to Spring Creek Elementary School. Because today is the last day of school for the fifth-graders, some bags will be given to certain kids this afternoon and the rest will be doled out Friday to younger students.

These “snack packs,” as they are called, are a part of a heart-tugging ministry of the Crosspath Church in East Ridge and – in essence -- they help the kids keep “the wolf” away from Friday’s lunch to Monday’s breakfast. The wolf is what makes a child’s tummy growl, don’t you see, and 95 percent of the children who attend Spring Creek qualify for free lunch.

What made yesterday morning’s delivery so very meaningful is that unless something is done, it will be the last until August arrives and school resumes. It is no secret that a good number of children who attend our public schools have a tough time on the weekends. It’s not their fault, not at all, and in the fall Crosspath Church – formerly East Ridge Baptist – hopes to up the order to 300 “snack packs” every weekend.

But Claude Hyde, a well-known automobile executive in Chattanooga who attends Crosspath Church, still wonders “what if.” Each bag, including items such as canned fruit, crackers, and Vienna sausages, costs the church about $1.75 every week. What if we could raise enough money to go to where these kids live every Friday during the summer and give each of them a snack pack?

“A bunch of them live in an extended-stay lodge in East Ridge,” Claude explained. “If their parent makes $8 an hour working a 40-hour week, their take-home pay is roughly $270. The lodge rent costs $160 a week so that leaves $110. Guess what – we have an epidemic in this country; a lack of money. A car payment, gas, clothes, a doctor’s visit … how do they do it?”

Crosspath Church recently staged a “Run to Feed” road race that charged $35 as an entry fee. “We were told we might have 50 runners but 250 showed up because many realized we are feeding kids. We aren’t blaming a soul but trying to meet what we feel is a real need in the community. We don’t ask these people to come to our church or put any type of religious message in the bag. We just know that Christ said ‘Feed my sheep.’”

The church has changed. Instead of regular Sunday night worship, members spend two nights a month doing service in the community. Another night they feed as many as 200 people a free dinner (anyone who shows up) and the outreach has paid off. Attendance is up, a new Sunday School in Spanish has begun, younger faces are seen in the congregation, and 250 kids put a snack pack in their backpack every Friday.

“Can you imagine how you would feel if, some Friday, it wasn’t your turn to get food?” Claude cried. “Sherrie Mitchell, our pastor’s wife, wrings every penny out of a nickel, and the greatest volunteers you ever saw are faithful workers every week but Crosspath is already stretched thin. My dream is that if we could get people to give $5 or $10 to Crosspath, the church would be willing to assembly snack packs during the summer. I think we could make a difference.”

East Ridge is not the community it once was. It is believed there are more who rent homes than own them and the business landscape on Ringgold Road has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. “The thing we need to remember is that these kids didn’t have anything to do with it but, because of circumstances, here they are. What would Jesus do? Well, what should we do?”

Terry Rodriguez, a counselor at the school, said teachers identify who should receive the snack packs each week and warns no one should think the children are being starved. “The parents do the best they can but often can’t provide the extras you see in other homes. The snack packs are a salvation and the children love them. The church has been so kind and thoughtful and it really has been a weekly blessing to many families.”

Anyone wishing to help Crosspath Church develop a summer snack program should send a tax-deductible contribution to the church, earmarked the snack pack program. The mailing address for the church is 4201 Ringgold Road, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37412. The pastor is Ronnie Mitchell and Sherrie, who oversees the Snack Pack outreach, is his wife. They would be delighted to share information with other churches who would like to adopt schools.

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