Cleveland's Caring Place prepares for 'Stranger at My Door'

Cleveland's Caring Place prepares for 'Stranger at My Door'

January 23rd, 2014 by Paul Leach in Local Regional News

Community volunteers Betty Baines, left, Jim Gallimore and Elaine Samples prepare bags of kid-friendly take-home meals as part of The Caring Place's Sac Pac program. The program, now two years old, distributes the packaged meals to over 500 economically disadvantaged students in 11 Bradley County schools each Friday during the school year.

Photo by Paul Leach/Times Free Press.

THE CARING PLACE

2014 ANNUAL BANQUET

WHAT: "Stranger at My Door" with River Jordan

WHEN: Feb. 27 at 6 p.m.

WHERE: DeVos Recreation Center at Lee University, 1305 Parker St. NE, Cleveland, TN 37311

TICKETS: $60 per person; $400 for tables of 8

For tickets and information, contact The Caring Place at 423-472-4414 or visit The Caring Place online at http://thecaringplaceonline.org.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Nashville-based author and speaker River Jordan will be featured at The Caring Place's sixth annual banquet, "Stranger at My Door," Feb. 27 at Lee University.

The event's name is inspired by one of Jordan's works, "Praying for Strangers, an Adventure of the Human Spirit," said Reba Terry, executive director for The Caring Place. The ecumenical Christian nonprofit organization provides food, clothing and social services to people in need.

Jordan's message of reaching out to strangers and praying for them has "a neat kind of connection" to what The Caring Place tries to do, Terry said.

She said many of the people seeking assistance from The Caring Place are strangers looking for help.

"We can pray for them," Terry said. "We can all be involved."

The annual banquet plays a big role in funding The Caring Place's operational expenses, she said. The organization's food and clothing programs are self-sustaining.

Even as The Caring Place looks forward to its annual banquet, workers are marking the second anniversary of its Sac Pac program, which provides packages of nutritious, kid-friendly, take-home meals to more than 500 needy Bradley County students each weekend during the school year.

"We have been blessed to see the program grow," said Lee Ann Lowe, director of the program, which was launched in January 2012. "I've never gone hungry in my entire life, and it is a blessing to help these children."

Sac Pac was created to help the 26.4 percent of Bradley County children who are living in poverty, according to The Caring Place website.

The program served 263 students at four elementary schools in January 2013. The number of students served has nearly doubled since then, and 11 schools now are involved. This month the program added about 30 students apiece from Ocoee Middle School and Lake Forest Middle School, Lowe said.

Program operations recently moved from The Caring Place facilities on Wildwood Avenue to a lab at Cleveland State Community College, which Lowe said was "a godsend."

With the extra space and help from college students in service learning programs, Sac Pac is better able to collect, package and distribute the 1.25 tons of food that pass through the door each week, Lowe said.

However, she said, it is a core group of community volunteers that keeps the program going on a day-to-day basis.

"They are the heart of the program," Lowe said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.