The Hope Christian Alliance food ministry has grown from struggling to feed a few Highland County families to now providing food regionally and even in other parts of the nation.
Curtis Pegram, director of the organization and the Hillsboro postmaster, told Hillsboro Rotarians on Tuesday that 40,000 pounds of food are required each year to feed Highland County clients. But the organization has been successful enough in building alliances with other organizations that it now contributes to feeding families in seven surrounding counties, as well as locations in Kentucky, West Virginia, Indiana and Oklahoma.
When Hope Christian Alliance began in 2010, it typically received one semi-load of food each month from donors. Now, it gets one each day. But while the food needs are generally being met, the fuel to operate the trucks and transport the food to the locations where it is needed is an ongoing cost.
Pegram asked the Hillsboro Rotary Club for its help, as the club has done in the past by contributing to meet the fuel expenses. While all trucks are donated, Pegram said diesel fuel expenses run $3,000 to $4,000 a month.
Pegram said that New Life Ministries Church, located on SR 247 just south of Hillsboro, continues to provide families with groceries each week. About 70 or so families came to the church each Friday in the early days of the outreach, but now, 500 to 600 families showing up each Friday is not unusual, said Pegram, with a line of cars stretching up and down the highway, requiring the assistance of the sheriff's office to control traffic.
Pegram said that New Life, a relatively small church, provides needy families with more than $5 million worth of food and other items each year. Pegram also mentioned the annual “Help the Hungry Outreach” sponsored by New Life that takes place each summer at Liberty Park in Hillsboro, a one-day food giveaway that has grown from attracting 850 in 2011 to 1,700 in 2012 to 2,500 this year.
Pegram mentioned Walmart, Kroger and JTM Meats as major donors of food items, and said the ongoing help of Jeff Parry and Five Points Implement has been crucial to the program. Because of the increase in affiliations with other food banks like Sugartree Ministries in Wilmington and many others, the local garden projects are being scaled back, said Pegram.
Pegram said his personal life's journey has been changed by his experiences after getting involved in hunger outreach programs in this area – something he had not been involved with before coming here to work.
“Highland County changed me,” said Pegram. “My relationship with Jesus Christ increased quite a bit when I came here.”
Prompted by Rotarians, Pegram also briefly discussed other outreach initiatives in which he has been involved, such as the “Diapers'R'Us” program, which Rotarian Karen Faust said is still providing moms with diapers, as well as programs for seniors and others.
In regard to post office news, Pegram said residents will see postal vehicles making Sunday deliveries as part of its agreement with Amazon.com. Pegram said the U.S. Postal Service recently won back the Amazon contract, which he said is an $11 billion account, and making Sunday deliveries of Amazon orders is part of the deal.
In other business, Rotarian and county prosecutor Anneka Collins announced that she and others in her office have formed a new non-profit called “For Highland County's Kids,” which will provide gifts to children at Christmas and other times during the year.
The new entity is an outgrowth of a project Collins and others in her office began doing in recent years for children in foster care or the care of the state due to parents or guardians becoming involved in criminal activity.