At first glance Just One More, a ministry of St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Wauwatosa, Wis., is all about food. By rescuing food that would otherwise be thrown away and giving it to the hungry, the ministry hopes to wipe out hunger in Milwaukee.
But Just One More is really about relationships.
Consider Joy Craig, 22, who came along when a neighbor picked up food at St. Matthew two years ago. Chris Capper, founder and executive director of Just One More, called to asked Craig if she wanted to volunteer. She thought he was joking, but showed up anyway — and did so two or three days a week for eight months.
Craig is now the ministry’s warehouse assistant, the first person hired when Just One More secured nearly $300,000 in grants.
Not bad for a ministry that started with a donated box of bread.
“She runs the place,” said Capper, who drives Craig to and from her inner city Milwaukee neighborhood so she can avoid a long bus ride.
“I don’t run it,” she said, with a mix of shyness and confidence. “I just know where everything is. This is my village. They changed my life.”
Craig not only knows where everything is, she knows where she might be if it weren’t for Capper and other adults who mentor her. When they first met, Capper encouraged her to attend church, and she did just that. She and four younger siblings now attendAll People’s [Lutheran] Church in the heart of Milwaukee. Her life has changed, and she’s changing the lives of others.
When food is distributed Monday mornings at St. Matthew, Craig expedites the assembly and distribution of meals. She also takes some home to feed her neighbors, enabling one woman to seek reputable employment because her food needs are being met.
It began with a box of bread
Capper began attending St. Matthew after being released from the Milwaukee County House of Corrections. He asked whether the church could host a Celebrate Recovery group for him and other addicts. About the same time, he saw a bulletin announcement about the congregation’s new meal ministry and volunteered. One day he brought a box of day-old bread from an organization that distributes it throughout Southeastern Wisconsin. If not bread, why not more? he wondered.
Just One More (www.jomministry.org) was born.
Capper rescued leftover church meals and channeled them to Repairers of the Breach, the city’s day ministry to the homeless. Then came the day when a community group gathered at St. Matthew served food from Saz’s, a local restaurant known for its barbecue ribs. Chris Manke, a pastor of St. Matthew, alerted Capper to the mountains of leftovers. Soon the popular caterer was supplying Just One More with 100 gourmet meals a week, which increases to 300 during its busy months (April-October).
Capper and his cohorts (Mark Petersen and Jim Bowen coordinate the bulk meal program; Larry Jurss the family meal program) then convinced other caterers, grocery stores, bakeries and wholesalers to donate what they would otherwise throw away.
More than 100 volunteers collect food from various vendors, repackage some into family sized portions (plus bread, sweets, produce), and designate the rest for nutritious community meals served at city church sites. More than 76,000 people were served last year (1,500 tasty, nutritious meals per week). “And we never spent a penny on food,” Capper said. “We haven’t even scratched the surface. How much more can we get?”
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© 2015 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers