"We're lined up here for food," is yelled out from a tent set up at Ritchie Park in Nacogdoches. The cue for children to line up for sandwiches, fruit and a healthy drink. "Want some? There you go," said a teenager to a little toddler unsure about taking the free lunch.
Children are given a nourishing lunch, but perhaps more fulfilling is that young people from dissimilar backgrounds learn they're not so different after all. Volunteer Jake McClellan, a child who has never experienced going without has made friends who have. None of that matters on this day. "Yes, I made plenty of friends. Anthony and 'Big Yellow' over there. They're so cool." His new friend explained, "See I had a big old yellow shirt on yesterday and they called me 'Ol Yellow."
Each week a different youth group volunteers at a park. The assignment is to play. Pitch, Frisbee, art and storytelling are some of the activities. Kenneth Caraway enjoys the free lunch, but really loves ball. "I beat them in baseball."
Then time is taken out for a brief Bible study to help everyone learn it's important to give and receive. First Baptist Church youth minister Rocky Johnson explained, "It gives 'em a dose of reality. It really does. It helps 'em understand the world does not revolve around them, but it revolves around Jesus."
Love In The Name Of Christ organized the volunteer effort, a mission larger than expected said LOVE INC's Tiffany Johnson. "We had estimated 50 per park which is what we had last year, but the first day which was July 15 there were over 75 kids. We had to increase the amount of lunches that we provide at each pack, so it's overwhelming."