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Monday, June 29, 2020

Christian Service Program

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Love, dignity and respect served free with meals since 1970

In the face of a pandemic, one thing has not changed.

People still need to eat. With that in mind, continues to feed the hungry. In fact, the organization is feeding more hungry people than before the pandemic.

“Laid off. Not working. No income coming in.” Those are the reasons Executive Director Al Moore hears when he visits with whom he refers to as “clients” – people who come as often as twice a day to get a hot meal. Every day except Christmas, Christian Service serves breakfast from 8-10 a.m. and lunch from noon- 2 p.m. The meals are served out of a kitchen at Hope Connections, located at 2346 Levy Street in Shreveport.

“With the pandemic, the numbers are going up,” Moore said. “We are doing over 250 meals a day – 1,400 to 1,500 meals a week.”

That compares with a pre-pandemic average of 175 meals a day.

Moore says Christian Service serves more people near the end of the month, as client’s resources begin to run out. On the weekend, Christian Service serves more children, as many other providers only serve children Monday through Friday.

“They still need to eat,” Moore said. But just like restaurants have had to change how they do business, so has Christian Service.

“In the past, our clients came inside the facility and sat down and ate,” Moore explained. “But now, we are doing to-go plates only. We have a to-go plate window where clients walk up and get their meal, and they have to keep going.”

In addition, Christian Service now serves bottled water. They used to use cups for water and juice.

Those changes have meant the Christian Service budget has taken an unexpected hit – to around $2,000 a month.

“We had an increase in expenses because we never did to-go plates, bottled water, things of that nature,” Moore said. “Everyone came in. So, we had to start buying to-go plates to feed the clients.”

When COVID-19 hit, there was talk of Christian Service closing – to protect the health of its staff and the people it serves. “Because if one of our employees contracted the virus, we would have to shut down.”

But it was the Christian Service staff that insisted on remaining open.

“They came to me and said, ‘Mr. Moore, we’ve got to continue to feed.’ It was the staff that said, ‘I don’t know where they (clients) would eat if it wasn’t for us.’” Precautions have been taken to keep staff and clients as healthy as possible.

“We wear masks,” Moore said. “Everyone takes their temperature. We don’t come in contact with the clients. A friend of mine built a nice to-go door, so they don’t breathe on us or anything. We don’t come in contact with the clients at all.”

This year, Christian Service is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Started by Sister Margaret McCaffrey in 1970, the organization’s purpose remains the same – to serve those in need. In addition to providing meals, Christian Service has a clothing ministry, which has been suspended because of COVID-19. Christian Service also offers emergency assistance to clients with bills and other critical needs. That program, also temporarily suspended, is expected to resume July 15 by appointment only.

“She wanted to treat everyone with love, dignity and respect,” Moore said of Sister McCaffrey, who died in 1998. “She always did that. No matter what situation they were in. She wanted to make sure they were taken care of – that they had their utilities on and that they had a meal.”

Moore knows well the inspiration behind Christian Service. While he has been executive director for seven years, Moore has been with the organization for 30 years. He began as a producer of the Christian Service Telethon, which aired yearly on local cable television.

“Sister Margaret would be proud that this ministry is still going and that we are still feeding the needy in the community,” Moore said. “It makes me feel proud that we are still able to do that.”

That “proud” feeling is something Moore experiences every day.

“When you see a person come with their head down, then they get a hot meal, and they leave with their head up, that makes me feel great,” Moore said. “When you were thirsty, we gave you water. When you were hungry, we gave you food. When you were naked, we clothed you. That’s what the Christian Service ministry does. We treat everyone with love, dignity and respect. We have no guidelines – no questions asked. You come up here, and you want a hot meal, you get a hot meal.”

To learn more about Christian Service Program – and you can help through donations and/or volunteerism – you may visit www.christianservicela.org.

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