‘Meet Me In The Street’
By STEPHEN FLANAGAN JACKSON
RUSKIN—Matthew 14:13-12: “We have here only five loaves and two fish.”
Christine and Dave Hicks saw a similar need a couple of years ago … and they have dedicated themselves to fulfilling this need. And similar to the multiplication of loaves and fishes, a slice of pizza has evolved into a full-fledged hot meal with two sites providing 60 to 80 meals, and more, on a weekly basis.
According to Christine, “We started our Meet Me In The Street Ministry two years ago with the nagging of our hearts as we saw people every day within our community with needs.”
The Hicks responded with compassion and action one evening by setting up a table with a few pizzas in the empty parking lot next to Winn Dixie on U.S. 41 in Ruskin.
“We have many guests who just need help with an extra meal to make their budget stretch, grandmothers raising their grandchildren, men who have served our country, people who have lost their way through loss or addiction. But these are still our neighbors who have a need to be recognized and loved,” said Christine, articulating the physical reasons for the Hicks’ ministry.
Within a month of serving its few five pizzas, the ministry was up to serving 10 pizzas. “We knew the need was great, and it was time to organize our efforts to include others,” remembers Christine. “We started a Facebook page to bring awareness to others within the community and for the many working poor within our community. As the weekly feeding grew in numbers so did the individuals who responded that they wanted to help us serve others.
Within months the small ministry started by the Hicks had over 30 volunteers and a menu that served weekly hot meals and donated clothing and personal care items that the volunteers and community provided.
The multiplications then took off. The ministry set out to support a second feeding site to build relationships and to provide for children within the community. Now, a short two years later, the ministry provides between 60 to 80 meals weekly.
The Meet Me In The Street Ministry is run completely by volunteers and has grown in outreach events that provide school supplies at the beginning of the school year and deliver lunches three days a week during the summer when children no longer receive free breakfast and lunch at school. Groceries are provided for the school breaks by ministry food drives, which are well supported by the community.
The annual Christmas party in December is the highlight of the year for children as Santa, games, treats and groceries are provided for families.
Christine responded to this child’s sense of happiness thusly, “This is what we believe community is: Knowing your neighbor and their need to belong.”
Meet Me In The Street Ministry continues to grow and feels blessed by the wide, benevolent support of the community, which responds to the ministry’s Facebook page when needs are posted. The responding community includes weekly volunteers who provide hot dishes and serve food; local churches that join in for events and offer food; Progressive Insurance, which not only contributes gifts but also provides volunteers during the ministry’s Christmas party; and Wellspring Community Church, which adopted a trailer park in which many from the children’s ministry live and did a full cleanup over the summer.
These are just a handful of the organizations that continue to reach out to the ministry to provide for others, according to Christine.
“We believe that if we all start to fill needs and to share our hearts with others they, too, will become part of that dream and the sense of community occurs.
“We pray, sing and talk every week knowing we all will be hungry again, but we are all fulfilled by knowing that others care,” Christine concluded, adding, “Giving starts in our own backyard.”