By LOIS KINDLE
Every Tuesday evening, a small, nondenominational ministry based out of Sun City provides a full, hot meal to more than 100 area residents needing something to eat. They come from all walks of life, said Chris Hicks, co-founder of Meet Me in the Street Ministry, a hands-on, grassroots, community-based nonprofit organization.
Sixty-plus volunteers, some of them seasonal, help with the effort. Some choose to prepare an item off the weekly menu Hicks provides, while others volunteer to serve food to those in need.
“Anyone can get a meal,” Hicks said. “We serve the homeless, working parents, families who are struggling and others. We’re a no-questions-asked ministry.”
The meals are served at two locations: in the Winn Dixie parking lot in Ruskin at 6:30 p.m. and then afterward at a local trailer park, also in Ruskin. Some folks drive up for take-out meals, while others dine on site and participate in prayer and fellowship. At the trailer park, volunteers also play games with the children.
“We’re a community of people serving people. We’re not a church,” Hicks said. “The meal is a tool for gathering people together who need one. But our mission is to share the Gospel and feed the soul.”
Meet Me in the Street Ministry also serves other needs.
It’s currently stopped collecting used clothing, due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, new items like socks, T-shirts, travel-size personal-care items and underwear are being accepted.
“If I get a bag of new T-shirts, for example, I hand out one T-shirt to each homeless person who comes,” Hicks said. “We also accept new windbreakers and raincoats to give out.”
The ministry is always in need of water, individual packages of snacks and any type of personal items, especially bug spray and sunscreen.
Presently, it’s gearing up for its annual Christmas event, during which all homeless people receive a sleeping bag, Christmas cookies and more.
Families register their children for the attendance-only event, where kids play games, visit with Santa, decorate Christmas cookies and get to pick one large gift, one small gift and a stocking. They can make cards for their teachers, make a gift for a parent and create a decoration to take home. Progressive Insurance is a “huge community sponsor,” Hicks said, and local churches partner in the event.
Meet Me in the Street Ministry is a 501(c)3 charity that operates solely on the benevolence of the community. All donations are tax-deductible.
“Every week God provides,” Hicks said. “We are very blessed for the support we receive.”
If you’d like to help in any way, visit the ministry’s Facebook page and leave a message. Replies are typically made within a day.