Handing out hope for the less fortunate, one Saturday at a time

Above the cacophony of squeaking cart wheels, laughter among friends and the occasional command blasted from a megaphone, Carmen Daron’s voice is clearly heard.

“You get two,” Daron says, referring to the boxes of graham crackers stacked in neat rows on a fold-out table she sits at in the parking lot of First Presbyterian Church at 17th and F streets.

“You get two graham crackers.”

A line of people stretches across the lot, as it has every first and third Saturday of each month for the past six years.

Some of those in line are disabled. Others have lost jobs or fallen behind on medical bills. Most, if not all, of them live below the poverty line.

They come for the groceries that Daron and – on any given day – about 50 other volunteers pass out for free as part of a joint effort between Lincoln churches, the Food Bank of Lincoln and Jacob’s Well, a non-profit organization that focuses on feeding, clothing and educating those in need.

People in need

A study conducted in 2012 by the Center For People In Need found that about 16 percent of Lincoln’s population lives below the poverty level, including 22 percent of Lincoln children and 10 percent of the city’s families. Most live in or around the downtown area.

These are the people Daron and the other volunteers are trying to reach.

“It’s downtown, it’s centralized,” said Pastor Darren Murray, one of the primary organizers of the food distribution program.

“There are a lot of people down here that are in impoverished conditions.”

Murray says, on average, they serve 200 or more people – although there have been times when the number has reached more than double that. Some months, the number of individuals served reaches over 1,000.

“We’ve had as many as 300 families come through before,” he said.

The Food Bank of Lincoln donates the groceries, which range from oranges to bottled sweet tea to pastries items. Essentials such as toilet paper, paper towels and toiletry items are also given out.

A call to action

Carmen Daron’s husband, Ernest, also helps the effort. He drives and unloads the Food Bank truck that transports the food to First Presbyterian.

“I’ve been floating around, helping others, doing the Lord’s work because that is what’s asked of me,” Daron said.

“The Lord put me in this position to help his people, and that it my joy in life – helping others.”

Like many of the volunteers, Pastor Murray says his faith is what motivates him to serve when he could easily spend his Saturday mornings sleeping in.

“The fact that Christ, when he came down and lived amongst us, he modeled how to be a servant leader,” he said.

“He washed his own disciples’ feet, which, in that day, was disgusting. You have a savior doing that … and he’s modeling that for us. I don’t think we really have an argument when it comes to what we’re called to do as Christians.”

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