Main Street Crew members, from left, Payton Minish, Brian Harnage, Ester Eckels, Charlie Currie, David Gattis, Cecil Goodroe, Don Swaney, Steve Currie, Steven Scott, Amanda Pennington-Scott, Paula Lynn Minish and Jennifer Duello pack food for delivery to low-income families in Rockdale County. (Special Photo)
In the quiet setting of a living room in a house on Main Street in Olde Town Conyers, a handful of friends taking part in a weekly Bible study have created a ministry that has brought love and food to hungry children in the community.
Naming the ministry “Shelley’s Kids” after the late Shelley Goodroe, a beloved teacher at J.H. House Elementary School for 28 years, the group wanted to honor Goodroe, who had been a faithful part of the Main Street Crew until her death. A member of Conyers First United Methodist Church, Goodroe died in March from Parkinson’s disease.
“She was probably the sweetest person I ever met,” said Charlie Currie, a member of the Main Street Crew. “She struggled with Parkinson’s over 15 years. It didn’t slow her down. I think it pressed her to do more in life.”
As members of a the Bible study from Conyers First United Methodist Church, the group had been meeting at the home of the Crew family on Main Street — thus the name Main Street Crew — every Wednesday night for a year as they studied the Bible and watched videos that encouraged them to love God and all of God’s children.
“Toward the end of the 2013 school year, a desire to share God’s love with people had been growing in the hearts of the Main Street Crew,” Currie said. He said some of them suggested making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and heading to Atlanta to feed those in need.
One Wednesday night member Lindy Donahue suggested the group work to meet the needs in their own community and shared an idea of feeding children attending the J.H. House Elementary School. She said many of the children at the school are on the free and reduced lunch program and she had spoken with the school guidance counselor, Leanne Valencia, and learned there was a need for food assistance.
Currie said the group got excited about the idea and decided they would pack book bags with enough food to help keep a child from getting hungry during the weekend with Vienna sausages, canned soup, pop tarts, cereal, pudding snacks, juice boxes, trail mix and other such foods.
Many of the children who benefited from this ministry are those who eat breakfast and lunch at school and whom teachers worry this is all the nourishment they receive each day.
Since the program got started as the school year was ending, Crew members were concerned about children going hungry through the summer. They sent out permission slips for parents to identify their personal addresses so that food could be delivered to the children during the summer break.
Currie said seeing the children smiling “from ear to ear” when the group pulled into the Lakeview Estates area on Saturday mornings kept the ministry going. He said the Crew presently fills the backpacks of about 32 children each week and has around 14 families it serves on the weekends.
Action Ministries, a non-profit Atlanta organization that sells boxes of food worth $30 for $5, is what the Main Street Crew delivers to the families who have asked to be on their weekend route. The group supplements the boxes with other food donations, such as bread and eggs.
The need continues to grow and the Main Street Crew invites others in the community to join in feeding the needy children and families.
“The idea and everything came together in our living room,” Currie said. “It is so amazing to be part of such a selfless group of people who donate their time and resources to make someone’s life better. It was something I wanted to be a part of and so did everybody else on the Main Street Crew.”
Currie said he and the others are from all walks of life and just regular people who want to minister to hungry children. He is a superintendent for a construction company.
“Our youngest member is 15 and our oldest is 73,” Currie said. “There’s a grandma, a teenager, a hairstylist, a recovering alcoholic, an insurance salesman, a flooring salesman, a school teacher and others — you get the Main Street Crew.”
As the food ministry grows, so does the need. The Crew is seeking help in all areas.
Someone can sponsor a children for a month for $20 and food donations and monetary donations are always needed. Food can be dropped off at Conyers First UMC.
Monetary donations can also be sent to the church with checks payable to Conyers FUMC and designated for Shelley’s Kids. More information is available by contacting Currie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currie is available to speak to groups throughout the area about the ministry and how people can get involved.
“It’s catching like wildfire,” he said. “I just spoke at Ebenezer UMC and shared there and spoke to the Retired Educators Association. I’ll go anywhere I can go and talk to anybody who will listen.”
As they have delivered food to the children and families, the group has also rescued two dogs, and they deliver cat food and dog food when they have those donations. Currie said they try to help educate the people on how to take care of their pets.
Now that the weather is getting colder, the Main Street Crew is also delivering blankets to the families and clothes and other items. Each box of food they deliver has a New Testament Bible in it and on Saturdays children can select from a basket of toys and candy the Crew takes with them.
Currie said when he sees people in the inner city who have all their belongings in a shopping cart or sleeping in a box on the sidewalk, he wonders how they ended up in that situation.
“It’s sad to say that there are too many to count and where do we begin when it comes to helping them get back on their feet?” he asks. “The question is not how we help them, but it is when. When are we going to step up and make an impact on a stranger’s life?”
Beth Slaughter Sexton is a freelance writer based in Gwinnett County. Contact her at email@example.com.