- Associated Press - Friday, December 26, 2014

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - In the basement of the massive Leawood church, a group of elementary school children walked in and started working an assembly line.

A bag in one hand, each student grabbed a can of food or a pack of crackers with the other. In went the ravioli, the milk, the juice. By the time they hit the end of the line, they had a bag of food that would feed a child over the weekend.

Bags just like the ones they get every Friday, The Kansas City Star (http://bit.ly/1CpXNTn ) reported.

“Sometimes families don’t have enough food to feed their families,” said Brandon Aaron, a sixth-grader at Kansas City’s Wendell Phillips Elementary.

Added Lamon Freeman, 11: “And sometimes they don’t have enough money to go to the store.”

During the past few years, the Church of the Resurrection has had several days like this. Dozens of students who get the weekly backpacks the church provides come and fill backpacks for children at another school.

Church volunteers smile as kids talk about helping other kids or point out that they love the juice and milk and especially the cheese and crackers.

Not only do the students see what volunteers at the church do every week, they also get a chance to give back. And to feel good about doing something for someone else.

“I like helping others,” Da’ Jonna Beck said after walking the assembly line many times. “I just like helping.”

More than seven years ago, the Leawood church realized that Harvesters alone couldn’t provide kids enough food to tide them over each weekend.

So the church, known for its mission work across the metro area, started its own program. With the help of donations from church members and others, as well as the time of hundreds of volunteers, Church of the Resurrection has grown the program from serving 320 children each week to more than 1,700 this year.

The church has no plans to slow down.

“Our commitment to the schools is our commitment to the schools,” said Stewart Curtright, a staff member in the church’s Mission Ministries.

Volunteers come as individuals or in groups from Scout troops, youth clubs and business associations. The assembly line moves quickly, completing the bags in no time.

“It only takes an hour,” Curtright said. “It’s amazing how this happens.”

In the past year, the church reached out to a nutritionist to make sure the food going home with the children at six partnering schools is healthy.

Inside each pack is enough food for roughly five meals. Church volunteers and school officials know that the food often isn’t feeding just the child.

“So many of these kids are looking out for their whole family,” said Claire Jepson, a retired teacher who now volunteers through the church as a liaison to Wendell Phillips.

Lamon Freeman said sometimes his cousins come over to the house and are hungry.

“I give them the ravioli and macaroni and cheese,” he said. “You can also feed the homeless if you don’t like something.”

Students from Wendell Phillips packed food bags in shifts. One young boy had a little fun in the food line, performing a behind-the-back maneuver with a small container of ravioli.

For sixth-grader De’ Zirea Nicholas, it felt good knowing that another student would eat what she put together.

“You’re putting your effort into helping them,” she said. “And what goes around comes around because they may help you back.”

Jepson works with the kids at their school. She knows how the food helps them and their families.

Sometimes, she said, she just looks at their faces on Fridays when they pick up their bag.

“It’s not like they expect it to come,” Jepson said. “It’s like there’s a joy when it comes. It’s like ‘Thank you.’”

___

Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com

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