Katelyn Keeling, Media Intern — Every Thursday at 4:45 p.m., First Temple member Dylan Kempf joins a small crew of other volunteers eager to serve. By 5:30, the dining room of Feed My Sheep will open and Kempf will help serve dinner to waiting, hungry people.
Feed My Sheep is a branch of the local non-profit organization Churches Touching Lives for Christ. The ministry exists to help meet the physical and spiritual needs of those who are homeless or in need. Supported by a coalition of local churches, Feed My Sheep extends a variety of resources to help people get back on their feet, not only providing daily meals, but haircuts on Wednesdays, spiritual advice and support, financial counsel, showers, laundry facilities, wellness clinics and specified care for children and women.
The entire operation is based on the volunteered time, energy and resources of local churches, businesses, and people like Kempf. He began volunteering more frequently between his retirement from the army and the start of a new job over the summer of 2016.
“It’s easy to serve,” Kempf said. “If a person were to volunteer there, they would need no experience. They just need to come with a positive attitude, knowing that that’s what God would want them to do.”
The most needed thing at Feed My Sheep is people. Volunteers are needed to serve a meal once a week, pray with clients, sort donated items, or to simply be there to hold friendly conversations with clients. These volunteers create a warm and welcoming community.
The nonprofit, which has served 18,780 clients since their beginning in 1994, seeks to provide more than just physical assistance to people in need. Feed My Sheep president Jim Hornsby calls it “a people ministry.”
“From the moment they walk in the door, it’s [all about] people,” Hornsby said. “We have a relationship. We’re like a family to them. They are not lesser. They have a seat at the table. They are people and God loves them.”
Part of Hornsby’s mission is to make sure that Feed My Sheep is a place where clients realize they have value. Most of the clients that Feed My Sheep serves are elderly, handicapped, or are veterans. According to Hornsby, as many as 60% of his clients deal with serious mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Often, these serious mental health problems don’t present themselves until a crisis situation arises, and are compounded by the realities of poverty and homelessness.
“You can’t address homelessness without mental health,” Hornsby said. “It’s hard to seek out help.”
Feed My Sheep partners with My Health My Resources, or MHMR, to help their clients qualify for treatments, find counseling, and receive the individualized help they need. In the meantime, they continually strive to meet the physical and spiritual needs of everyone who walks through their doors.
“It’s not about I; it’s about we,” Kempf said. “They don’t need us to judge them, they just need us to help them.”
In the year and a half that Kempf has served at Feed My Sheep, he has begun to realize that their work transcends appearances.
“Once you go there and you experience helping these people, putting food in their mouth, being positive, and praying with them before a meal, [I realized] that if they see you more than once, they start expecting it,” Kempf said. “So if a group that works together goes there on a recurring basis, these people enjoy it because they expect them, they know the attitude that comes with them.”
Kempf suggests that volunteers team up and rotate through on a weekly or even monthly basis to create a structured roster of workers. This kind of frequent rotation could prove to be a beneficial way to avoid volunteer burn out, create repetitive social connections and increase the meaningfulness of the community the nonprofit creates.
“Step out of your box and get involved,” Hornsby said. “God gives us the blessing of others, of people.”
The more people involved, the more people in the community that can be impacted, and the more the Church can actively be the hands and feet of Christ.
“Who in the community will get involved?” Kempf asked. “It’s got to be local churches.”