NEW YORK Over 400 volunteers packed 4,000 boxes at the Thanksgiving Packing Party, Nov. 19, in Long Island City, N.Y. In assembly lines and rows, boxes get packed with vegetables, 10-lb bags of potatoes, sodas, ham, green peas, baked beans, brownie mixes, and even stuffed animals.
Here's Life Inner City, the inner city ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, partners with churches to deliver thousands of food boxes to help poor families celebrate Thanksgiving each year.
"HLIC has always been helping the body of Christ in the area of seeking justice and seeing life transformed in a holistic way," said Clint Owens, co-director of Here's Life Inner City, which has been serving New York for 25 years.
Caring for a "felt need," each of the Boxes of Love is enough to make a Thanksgiving dinner for a family of six. The boxes will be distributed through 105 neighborhood churches.
At the same time, the "Boxes of Love" program allows churches to minister to non-believing families, according to Owens, transforming whole neighborhoods holistically.
"It starts small with one family," he said. "One family investing in another family. And it builds on itself. These families invest, and maybe neighborhoods will change."
Each needy family is identified by their neighborhood church. The distributors meet the family, and bring the box into the house for them. Then, they read a pamphlet which talks about God. If the family is truly in need, the church will give continuous support.
For Kathy Kim, 32, who attends Redeemer Presbyterian Church, "It's a lot of fun."
"I think it's just really important, like something as small as a box of food, to show that others care. Even one time is important," she said.
For others, it's personal.
Linda Boyce, who came from Amityville, N.Y., said, "I've had times when I've had to depend on God's grace. When a door's open, you appreciate it so much."
"It's really impressive," said Boyce. "God saw your personal need, and He didnt just give you a crumb, but a whole table of food."
About 31.1 million Americans are poor, according to year 2000 Census Bureau reports. But more than 2,250 Americans will fill 29,000 Boxes of Love to combat the cyclic nature of poverty by introducing the love of God.
New York's branch of HLIC raised over $30,000 for the drive. In addition, sponsors contributed foodstuffs.
Besides New York, the Packing Party was multiplied in 11 other cities, including Atlanta; Bakersfield, Calif.; Chicago; Detroit; Jacksonville, Fla.; Little Rock, Ark.; Los Angeles; Louisville, Ky.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.; and Seattle.