One Meal, One Person at a Time
It doesn’t seem possible. It’s right in our own backyard. Just beyond the perfectly manicured lawns and professionally decorated homes, there is another story. In Hamilton County, one of Indiana’s wealthiest counties, many children have no idea how and when their next meal will arrive. No sack lunch is available because school is out. No overnight summer camps with s’mores around the campfire are in the budget. Their bellies are empty. And as the heat sets in, hunger becomes a normal part of their summer days.
According to FeedingAmerica.org, One in seven Hoosiers struggle with hunger. In Hamilton County alone there are 27,150 people who are food insecure; 11,470 are children. The good news is that there are 34 food pantries around town.
A Giving Tree Community Pantry is one of them, serving 500+ people in Westfield and the surrounding areas with a food bank and mobile unit. They also have a summer food program through which families can shop and fill backpacks with food – and receive a hot meal – each Friday. To serve those in the surrounding areas, their mobile pantry takes off weekly around town to literally meet people where they are – on the streets.
Toto and I had the privilege of visiting A Giving Tree and spending time with one of the co-founders Don Stilts. After he and wife Christiana experienced a nearly tragic health crisis with their young son, they wanted give back to the community. As a result, they founded A Giving Tree to serve those who have fallen through the cracks of other pantries, especially those in food deserts like Sheridan, Indiana. But the Stilts’ organization reaches far beyond food. Their focus is on building relationships with their clients to help propel them out of poverty by understanding the root cause of their food insecurity. Through one-on-one counseling, Stilts helps individuals tackle personal struggles and connects them with employment and other support services. And he does it with an overflowing passion and enthusiasm anchored in his Christian faith. “We are unique from other food pantries in that we know everybody by name,” Don Stilts said, “We want to feed people not only physically, but also spiritually.”
And they do it one meal and one person at a time.
Toto with A Giving Tree Co-founder, Don Stilts.