St. Stephen’s annual food drive benefits Durham Rescue Mission
As a parishioner at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church for 24 years, with 13 of those as parish secretary, Jean Losee has been involved with the Hope Valley church’s annual Thanksgiving Ingathering. Each November the church and its preschool gather food donations to deliver to the Durham Rescue Mission for its food pantry and Thanksgiving dinner served to those in need.
Sometimes the amount of donations is huge, sometimes not, but it happens every year, Losee said. Harris Teeter lends them a shopping cart to carry all the donations. On Monday afternoon, a dozen boxes were filled with requested canned vegetables – mostly green beans – and other canned and boxed food.
Clyde Stephens is retired sexton of St. Stephen’s, and takes the donations via pickup truck to the mission gate.
“They couldn’t be a nicer bunch of guys. They send us a thank you note,” he said. Stephens said the mission also sent him a sympathy card when his mother passed away.
Tamiko Sanders is director of the St. Stephen’s Preschool. Each class of 2-, 3- and 4-year-olds had its own donation box.
“Teachers talked about Thanksgiving and what kinds of food they liked,” Sanders said, and so some children donated food to others that they enjoyed, too. Older children put the donated food in the boxes themselves.
Sanders said she thinks if you start early in ways they can understand, children will continue to share as they grow older.
“The preschool is a ministry of the church, it’s doing more so than just talking about it. This is a ministry,” she said.
It’s a lesson that benefits grownups, too.
For Bill Losee, the annual Thanksgiving Ingathering teaches them “to share because we’re a lot more privileged than the people in need of the food. Plus, Ernie Mills’ work is well known in Durham and deserves all the support we, as parishioners, can give,” he said.
Jean Losee said that stewardship is a way of life at St. Stephen’s.
Durham Rescue Mission was founded by Ernie and Gail Mills and provides shelter to the homeless, operates thrift stores and hosts annual large meals, including Thanksgiving.
Ernie Mills said that without churches like St. Stephen’s Episcopal, it would be very difficult to do what they do. In addition, 29 other churches pledged to collect turkeys for the mission this year.
“When they come together, great things can be done,” Mills said. “When our homeless friends come to stay with us, they feel no one loves them. I tell them God loves them, but it’s like water off a duck’s back.”
When they see other churches involved in helping, he said, the pieces start to come together.
“They see God loves them, and yes, other people love them, too,” Mills said.
The Rev. Robert Kaynor, rector of St. Stephen’s, said their call is to first give thanks and serve others.
“Sometimes serving others makes us feel good, which is a nice thing, but can’t be the reason for doing it. The reason is to connect with people we may not see much of or know are there,” Kaynor said. “We’re all connected, even if we don’t see it.”
Mills said they’ll have enough food for the Durham Rescue Mission Thanksgiving, but are already gathering turkeys for a dinner served on Christmas Eve. They also need volunteers to help not just serve, but to sit down and talk with those who come to dinner. To volunteer or donate, call 919-688-9641 or visit www.durhamrescuemission.org.