In 2008 Cheri was serving as the Director of Kids Hope USA, a program that focuses on matching at-risk students from a local school with members of a church in the community, at Fair Haven Church in Hudsonville, Michigan. During her time in this role, Cheri learned of a community injustice – elementary school kids were going hungry.
The nation was going through a recession and it was impacting her community. For the first time in decades the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, was facing a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year. When Cheri learned that children in her local schools were hungry, it brought back painful memories of her own childhood when her parents struggled for employment.
“The church played an important role in my life as a child. Despite her long work hours, my mom always took us to church on Sunday. The love and light of Jesus our church brought into my life gave me hope and peace. I am forever grateful for this church that reached out to us — supporting, encouraging, loving, and blessing us. It brought a sense of stability to my life,” said Cheri. “I wanted that love and support to translate to our local communities.”
As a believer, Cheri turned to God for direction of how to help these hungry school children. “I began praying about how God could use our church to fight this injustice. I knew that God called us to feed the poor and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I also knew there was enough food in America and that we just needed to find a way we could directly put the food into the hands of children who need it.”
So, Cheri sounded the alarm at Fair Haven Church in Jenison, Michigan. Members of the church responded with great enthusiasm and urgency to help combat childhood hunger. Additionally, she also worked directly with the principal of the school to discern together how children could be fed. Shortly after, Hand2Hand was founded. Hand2Hand has not only provided for the physical needs of hunger, it has also offered a sense of joy and relief as children can rely on the food to appear in their lockers every week.
Despite the program’s simplicity, a small backpack filled with supplemental food for school children, to bridge the gap of weekend hunger, the program nourishes more than just the physical. It provides consistency, love, and demonstrates to all within a home that people do care. That, ultimately, God cares.
Once other churches began to hear about Hand2Hand and the impact it was making, they felt the call to partner with schools in their neighborhoods to fight against childhood hunger. In 9 years, God has grown this program from feeding 19 students to feeding thousands of students each week.
Prayer continues to remain the primary component of Hand2Hand with all of our partnering churches. We are founded on the verse from Psalms 145:16, “For You open Your hand and provide for the desires of every living thing.” Our prayer is that the children will realize the food comes from God Himself because He is ultimately the One who is providing it…we are simply His hands and feet.