Church volunteers make sandwiches for kids

Thirty volunteers at the Wilton Congregational Church came together last week to participate in the Bridgeport Rescue Mission’s summer lunch program, providing bagged lunches for children at South Norwalk’s Summer Learning Center Program.

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission, which also operates four mobile kitchens in South Norwalk and distributes turkeys and coats for 750 families per year through its Great ThanksGiving Project, launched its summer lunch program in 2011 after being approached by the Norwalk Housing Authority. Due to a loss of funding, the authority could no longer provide lunches for the children at its learning centers over the summer.

The Bridgeport Rescue Mission henceforth picked up the slack, providing 12 days of breakfast and lunch for the children that summer and taking on the entire summer’s worth of lunches for the ensuing years.

To make this feasible, the mission reaches out to church congregations in Fairfield County every year, asking each to take on one week of providing lunches. This year there were nine weeks in the program, and nine churches stepped up to make sandwiches for the cause. Wilton Congregational Church was one.

“It’s very rewarding for us at the church to have a hands-on opportunity to help these children in need for a neighboring town,” said Heidi Hawk, chair of the church’s Board of Mission and Service.

“It’s up to programs like the Bridgeport Rescue Mission to provide these children with lunches. It’s very heartwarming to have an effect on these children’s lives. It’s a small gesture, but we’re thrilled at the opportunity to do it.”

From Aug. 4 through 8, volunteers came to the church each morning at 8:30, preparing the lunches on an assembly line in the morning rather than the night before so that the meals would be fresh. The group prepared 810 lunches throughout the week, which included bologna or turkey and cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit.

The Village Market, Ms. Hawk said, “was tremendous in providing us with the food we needed at a low cost. That was a nice additional support from the community.”

The Wilton Congregational Church collaborates with the Bridgeport Rescue Mission as just one of its many charity endeavors. It also partners with Habitat for Humanity, Person-to-Person, Covenant to Care, the Open Door Shelter, and Keystone House in Norwalk.