BAXTER SPRINGS — Community meals, served 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at Trinity Worship in Baxter Springs are just one of the endeavors in which Word in Action Ministries is involved.
Word in Action Ministries began when Steve and Jena Fellers saw a need in the community, and wanted to do something to help.
“Cherokee County is the poorest county in Kansas and statistics say some 3,712 are going hungry every night out of a population of over 22,000,” Fellers said.
In the beginning, they said, they just wanted to open a food pantry and from there, the opportunities to share have blossomed.
Jena Fellers said they “stepped out in faith and God has provided.”
They started holding the community meals in a room at Trinity Worship Center where Steve is pastor.
Initially, it was just the two of them sharing meals with anyone who showed up. Soon word got around and and the community meals started to grow in size.
At first, there were around 15 to 20 volunteers helping to cook and serve and the number has grown to an estimated 100 to 150 volunteers from the community, including people from nine churches who are on a regular rotation schedule.
What started as just a few people enjoying food and fellowship at the community meal is now up to an average of 25 to 30 eating in-house and since volunteers started delivering meals to those who are homebound, the total number served each night is up to over 150 on average. Jena Fellers said they have some visitors who walk to the meals each night regardless of the weather The ministry also helps give away between two and five food baskets every week and aids several other area food pantries.
This past Thanksgiving, they helped serve 438 meals to the community. People from all over Cherokee County and a few other areas have benefited from the ministries. In the first year, 23,000 people were fed. In the second year that number rose to close to 50,000 and continues to grow, the Fellers said.
Some people who started by attending the community meals are now volunteers themselves. Vickie Cusick and her husband John began attending the meals on the recommendation of a friend when they were going through a rough patch.
They are now helping to cook and serve meals.
“Steve and Jena and the church have really helped us,” Vickie Cusick said. She said coming to the community meals has brought her husband and her to church and she said she “enjoys the people. I like seeing the community getting involved.”
And the community is getting involved. Mrs. Fellers said they receive on a steady basis only about one-third of the money they need to provide all the services, but the needs are always met. Many businesses, civic organizations, churches and individuals donate food, supplies and money to help support the ministries.Without them, it would be very difficult for the food distribution to continue.
Mrs. Fellers said food ministries are not the only things they are involved in. They try to help in any way they can.
A new endeavor they are involved with is the Blessing Xchange located at 704 Main in Galena. It is a food pantry and thrift shop open noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the fourth Saturday of each month noon to 4 p.m.
The director of the Blessing Xchange is Helen Weaver. The goal of the store is for people to bring in items they can no longer use and in exchange they can pick up something they can use at no additional charge. Word in Action Ministries has also helped people locate jobs and in some cases have assisted with paying utility bills. WIAM also assists with a community meal served 6 p.m. before the Wednesday night Bible study at First Assembly of God in Baxter.
The Fellers’ have more goals for the ministry. Mrs. Fellers said they would like to be able to purchase a van so that they could help transport those in need to medical appointments. They are also searching for an affordable walk-in freezer. She also said she would like to be able to teach some budgeting classes and maybe some classes in acquiring job skills. She said that a very long term goal would be to set up some sort of living facility for those who have no place to stay. They are currently working on a room for people who need a place to stay for just a night or two.
Any individuals or groups in the community needing more information on getting assistance, to volunteer or to donate items to the ministry can contact the Fellers’ through Trinity Worship Center (620)856-4045.