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March 1, 2012

No Generation Gap in Ministry

Margaret Hines family
Four-generation families are helping the Berryville Congregation in Arkansas provide ministry.
Jerry Keehler family



A pair of four-generation families is helping the Berryville Congregation live out the mission initiative of Experience Congregations in Mission.

The Arkansas congregation, through the Community Loaves & Fishes Food Bank, helps feed an average of 650 families per month. Some food comes from government commodities. Most of the rest is salvaged from vendors and grocery stores.

Jerry Keehler and his family, along with other helpers, collect food four and five days a week by the truckload from a large grocery chain. The haul is nearly 8,000 pounds some weeks.

After collection, workers weigh it by product category and store it for distribution. The youngest family member, Alice, helps by marking through bar codes. Every Wednesday the congregation gives the food to people who meet government income guidelines or have emergency needs.

Margaret Hines and her family also are regular workers. They do paperwork and pack boxes of food. Even 2-year-old Sadie helps by greeting and saying good-bye to clients.

Because of the economy, the client load increased 34 percent from 2006 to 2010. Then it went up 13 percent in the first seven months of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.

Working with other ecumenical-minded church groups, the congregation distributed about 400,000 pounds of food in 2011.