Rhonda Cagle

Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Become A Hero To A Hungry Kid

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm

The world needs more heroes. Not the kind in leotards and capes, but the ones who show up with a bag of food and turn hunger into hope for a hungry child. Heroes like my friends Lisa and Vince, who do this every week for more than 1,000 hungry children through Kitchen on the Street, a non-profit agency they founded.

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They have help, of course. Help from more than 1,800 friends like you and me. Folks who have discovered what a few hours of time, a few dollars, and a few cans of food can do. To a hungry child looking for his or her next meal, it’s nothing short of heroic – even miraculous. You can read about it in my latest column for the Arizona Republic. http://t.co/QO80J6lH8C

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Looking for the Christ In Christian

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2012 at 11:53 am

At the risk of sounding self-important, or worse yet, all “Jesusy” as Anne LaMott likes to phrase it, I find myself with a lingering taste of anger and injustice that borders on moral outrage. I know, I know… “moral outrage” comes dangerously close to hyperbole, but it’s the phrase that comes closest to describing my feelings after reading a survey sent to my husband by a conservative Christian lobbying group.

And no, this is not a political rant. My husband is the politician; I am not. Since this is my blog and not his, I’m not writing about politics so whether you lean left or right, it’s safe to keep reading.

I am not overly political. I am, however, a Christian. Not a great one – certainly not one that feels morally superior enough to push my faith onto others. Most often, I find myself embarrassed by the made-for-TV televangelists who preach prosperity or conservative patriotism as tenants of the Christian faith. I don’t believe in that kind of religion – but I do believe in Christ.

To put it more succinctly, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible…” My theology has enough room to accommodate those who raise their hands and speak in tongues along with those who raise the chalice and believe in an epiclesis that results in trans-substantiation. But my theology, let alone my patience, has no room for any form of faith that does not hold at its core “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” Stated another way, faith is defined as loving God with all your heart, soul, and strength, and loving your neighbor as yourself.

When my husband received a survey from a conservative Christian lobbying group for their voter guide, I expected their questions to reflect these priorities. I expected they would want to know of those running for political office in Arizona their stance on improving quality of living factors in our state. It seemed reasonable they would want a thoughtful answer on difficult subjects such as subsidizing health care for poor kids or improving social services that increase child safety and prevent child abuse.

I was wrong. Not one question addressed the more than 1 in 4 children who live in poverty in Arizona. Not a single question about how to serve more than 12,000 children in our state foster care system. There was no opportunity to address the 29+% of Arizona’s children who experience food insecurity – a polite way of saying they don’t have enough to eat on a consistent basis. No question was asked about how to improve our state unemployment rate of approximately 9% – more than 17% when you factor in those who are underemployed or working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Instead, they asked the following. “Please indicate whether you support (S) or oppose(O).”

  • Prohibiting touching or tipping dancers and fully nude performances in sexually oriented businesses.
  • Prohibiting abortion except when it is necessary to prevent the death of the mother.
  • Allowing slot machines and table games off Indian reservations.
  • Government granting unmarried domestic partners the same employee and health benefits as married couples.
  • Amending the United States Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
  • Extending the current 60-day waiting period for divorces that involve minor children in order to encourage reconciliation.
  • Passing state laws that authorize local law enforcement officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

No questions about feeding the hungry. Clothing the naked. No questions about caring for “the least of these” in our state and society. Just a simple – one might say simplistic – “support” or “oppose.” Yes or no. Black or white. No shades of gray. No space for discussion. No room for mercy.

Their voter guide won’t have any information about my husband. He didn’t bother to fill out their survey. That’s okay. Their survey doesn’t have any information about the God I know.

As he’s campaigning, I’ve asked my husband to keep his focus on what Scripture defines as important. Widows. Orphans. The hungry. The naked. The “least of these.” Unfortunately in Arizona, it’s a list long enough to keep him busy for years to come.

As far as I’m concerned, this “Christian” lobbying group can keep their voter guide. I’ll make my voting choices based on people serious about ensuring Arizona’s kids go to bed educated, safe, and fed. Politicians will earn my vote when they make “the least of these” their priority. Once we’ve solved these fundamental priorities, we can then afford to turn our attention to the wisdom of amending our nation’s Constitution and deciding on whether or not to tip nude performers. Until then, we have real problems and real issues to address – both as citizens and people of faith.

That’s the real Gospel. The real priority. That’s the Christ I expect to see in anything that bears the title of Christian.

Yesterday

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Every once in a great while, you get the privilege of being part of something that is bigger than you could have ever dreamed… more hopeful than your best expectations… more holy than a prayer. Yesterday was one of those days.

Yesterday more than 100 volunteers from all over the Valley came together to help Kitchen on the Street serve more than 1,600 people at three events taking place at two school campuses in greater Phoenix. If you were walking in my shoes, you’d know the miracle of that statement.

Three years ago, Kitchen on the Street started because my dear friends, Lisa and Vince Scarpinato, listened with their hearts as my husband, Dennis, shared the story of a little girl at one of his schools who went hungry at nights and on weekends. A few days before Dennis died, they emailed us, telling him not to worry anymore about the little girl – they would be feeding her and other kids like her.

What began as a handful of neighbors packing food for 15-20 kids each week in Lisa and Vince’s backyard has turned into an all-volunteer agency feeding more than 300 kids every week in nine Valley schools. Our first year of operation, we brought in roughly $7,200 in donations and provided 4,600 meals. We just closed our third year with roughly $70,000 in donations… more than 45,000 meals distributed… and thousands of lives touched with the love of Christ in the process.

Yesterday I had the privilege of seeing some of their faces. We worked in collaboration with St. Mary’s Food Bank, the largest food bank in Phoenix, to distribute 12 pallets of food. More than 225 families lined up more than an hour before the distribution began, waiting to receive bags of fresh produce for their families. I had the opportunity to look into the eyes of mothers – their eyes shining with gratitude for the opportunity to feed their children. And I watched as little children played together while waiting in line, their faces filled with hope because our volunteers were there to extend help in the name of Christ. As the last person went through the line, we discovered we had provided food to at least 1,000 people – many of them children.

More than 225 families lined up to receive fresh food distributed by Kitchen on the Street, in collaboration with St. Mary's Food Bank.

For many families, this food distribution is a lifeline.

Kitchen on the Street volunteers distribute bread, salad, squash, and other fresh food that is often beyond the reach of families living in poverty.

There were as many children as adults in the line, waiting to receive food.

Fresh food given by hands extended in the name of Christ.

The hope was palpable as moms left with food for their families.

An hour later, I was at another event on the same campus. Humana Healthcare had sent 30 volunteers to help us pack 600 bags of food for our Bags of Hope program distributed in local public schools. Many of the volunteers had brought their children and I was able to share stories with them of some of the children they would be feeding as the result of their effort.

Humana volunteers brought their children to help pack 600 Bags of Hope for distribution in local public schools.

I watched as mothers fought back tears when I told their children the story of two elementary-aged sisters and their pre-school-aged brother. Mom has stage IV cancer and dad is long gone. In a few months, these children will be orphans. But for now, the food provided by Kitchen on the Street means this family has one less thing to worry about as they make memories together and cherish the precious time they have left.

The children worked with purpose, knowing their efforts were feeding kids just like them in schools just like theirs.

The eyes of one of the little girls listening to the stories grew wide when I told of a little girl who was referred to the school principal for scamming her classmates out of their lunch money. As the principal asked questions, she discovered that the little girl’s house had partially burned down. Having nowhere else to go, the family is still living in this shell of a home with no food and no money. The little girl wasn’t intending to be “naughty,” but only wanted enough money to buy food. Instead of being suspended, this child was referred to Kitchen on the Street. We’re now feeding her and have had the opportunity to share information with her family about additional resources in their community.

Father and son work side by side, packing boxes filled with Bags of Hope to be delivered to local schools.

Yesterday, dozens of volunteers arrived at one of our partner schools. Armed with garbage bags, gloves, sponges, and cleaning supplies, they worked for hours sprucing up the campus. With schools facing severe budget shortages, janitors’ hours are being cut, which means classrooms are becoming dirty. Our volunteers wiped down desks, picked up trash, and pulled weeds. On Monday morning, hundreds of students will return to classrooms brightened by the help and hope given as a gift by our volunteers.

Yesterday was a good day. Hope won. In a neighborhood blighted by poverty and violence, food was given out in the name of Christ. Culture and language was no barrier to love. The sound of children laughing was heard as they carried home bags of food for their families. And because yesterday was a good day for Kitchen on the Street, tomorrow will be even better for a child whose hunger has been turned into hope.

It's donations from people like you who make hope possible in the lives of children served by Kitchen on the Street. Thank you for giving generously!

To learn more about our all-volunteer agency, making a tax-deductible donation, or volunteering your time, please visit the website, KitchenOnTheStreet.org.

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