By Liz Sheahan *
She found herself in rural Alabama with a bunch of newly–found friends learning about hunger and waste, and picking black-eyed pears for the hungry people of that rural area. And she wasn’t from that area – by any stretch.
Dr. Lesley Huffaker, a resident of the San Diego area, is a grandma, cancer survivor, and retired special ed teacher specializing in advocating for kids with dyslexia. At church one Sunday morning in 2008, she read a flyer about Society of St. Andrew – it was the first time she’d heard of our organization. The mission of feeding our hungry neighbors through gleaning really resonated with her, and she felt compelled to learn more. After a long phone conversation with a SoSA staff member, she decided to participate in a Harvest of Hope inter-generational weekend.
The closest event, and one that fit into her calendar, took her to a town south of Birmingham, AL. She wound her way through the back roads to find the YMCA lodge where the group would be staying. She met the other participants, which included a youth group from Northern Indiana, and other people who, like her, felt called to do their part in eradicating hunger and malnourishment in America. They were together for a short weekend, but it was filled with powerful education, service, and worship. They left with relationships that would last for years.
Harvest of Hope, one of SoSA’s core programs, is a mission/service experience designed to engage participants in the issues of hunger and waste, and help them make a commitment to being part of the solution moving forward. Held in a variety of locations (wherever there’s gleaning, affordable facilities, and interest available), there are events for senior high groups, middle school groups, alternative spring breaks for college students, and inter-generational weekends (in which Lesley participated). Each event incorporates small and large group discussions about hunger and waste, field gleaning and interfaith worship – culminating with each participant making a covenant to make a difference when they return home. Harvest of Hope is an introduction to service.
Lesley returned to California on fire – ready to make a difference. The next summer, during Vacation Bible School at her church, Foothills UMC in La Mesa, CA, SoSA was chosen as the mission program for the week-long offering the children collected each day. “One little boy brought his piggy bank to share in the group gathering time, and spilled out 37 dollars,” exclaimed Lesley. “All the kids got inspired, so much so that the total for SoSA that week came to an even $1,000.00! Hunger was talked about a lot that week.”that fire hasn’t died down in the years since her introduction to SoSA. Lesley has encouraged others in her church to get involved in the fight against hunger, and is actively working to get even more activity going. Last year, her family used the SoSA Christmas Cards, helping friends learn more about the opportunity to make an impact through this organization. She tells everyone she can about SoSA and the difference they can make in the lives of those in need, and works to connect leaders of organizations and churches with our mission, in hopes they’ll expand the work even further. In addition, she submits devotions for the SoSA Advent and Lenten Devotionals.
“When people understand the very low operating costs of SoSA, they become very excited to realize how possible it is to feed so many hungry people,” stated Lesley when reflecting on her experience telling others about the organization. “With more and more people becoming involved in SoSA, it offers the true possibility to eradicate hunger!”
Liz Sheahan was SoSA’s Director of Transformational Gifts