Student-athletes share meaning
of Easter with White County
by Emily Grooms
CLEVELAND, Ga. (TMCNews) – The student-athletes of Truett-McConnell College's softball team helped give away nearly a ton of food March 26 at the White County Food Pantry.
While some players stocked and organized shelves, and filled boxes with food,
others gave away nearly 40 Easter baskets to children of needy families.
Purchased mostly at their own expense, students filled the baskets with items every kid would expect, but that also included tooth brushes, tissues and a letter explaining the biblical reasons for celebrating Easter that clearly presented the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
"We wanted to show the families and kids at the food pantry that we cared for them by not only meeting their needs, but by sharing the real meaning for Easter," said Rebecca Creswell, a Truett-McConnell junior who has invested several days at the pantry, and who recruited her teammates for the Saturday ministry.
"Some kids may have never heard the true meaning of Easter," she added. The sheet in each basket gave families
"a chance to see it straight from the Bible."
Creswell first served at the food pantry through a similar project last Christmas, where students packed stockings for children. That spawned her recent ministry idea.
"I just thought it would be a great way to give back and serve the people in White County," Creswell told TMCNews. "The Easter baskets presented a way to share the Gospel with these families."
"We thought it would be important to show them the reason we were there," she said. "Handing out Easter baskets was because of Jesus Christ."
One team, one heart
"No matter who you are, or what you have or don't have, people still have needs that are greater than yours," said Evann Todd, psychology major. "I was reminded that it doesn't always have to be about us."
Todd was encouraged by the other, weekly volunteers at the food panty, who give so much time and effort to care for those in need. "People are taking a lot of time out of their day to do something nice for people in need, and that's amazing and heartwarming."
Perhaps the greatest lesson gleaned from the day was the understanding of what it meant to be a servant: "There is more than enough work to be done than some people think," Todd said. "It's time to start looking more into our own back yards and seeing what we need here, rather than assuming everything is just fine."
While emphasizing what it means to be servant leaders, Coach Jenni Shephard, who also is TMC's assistant athletic director, said it's important for her players to be involved in community projects. "I want my players to understand that investing their time and energy into community service projects should be a priority during their time at Truett-McConnell, as well as wherever they go when they graduate."
Seeing that there are those in need so close to where they live is something Shephard said "really opened my players' eyes to the trials some face."
Observing "the excitement in the children who received the Easter baskets we had assembled is something that cannot be described," Shephard said. "My girls went away with a renewed sense of appreciation for the things they have, and a continued desire to minister to those in the community."
Throughout the entire day, one thing that was never forgotten was the reason for ministry. "Easter is about a living God," said Caitlyn Hogg, a sophomore business major. "Through our giving Easter baskets and helping at the food pantry, we got to show the people that God is still living and that He cares for them."
Serving the servants
While the team served the White County community, they also ministered to other volunteers at the food pantry.
Becky Hyde -- a 10-year veteran of the food pantry, who also directed the day's ministry -- said, "The girls' coming to help today was a God-send. That they had Easter baskets for families who probably wouldn't have them was really neat."
Edna Holcombe, a longtime, retired employee of Truett-McConnell, works every week at the pantry. When asked about the Truett-McConnell girls' involvement, Holcombe said she was "not surprised. It's good for them to go outside of their campus and learn some of the problems and difficulties people in the world have. I think it's a great thing for them and their future training to work in community service projects."
Pantry volunteer Gerald Hendricks, a Truett-McConnell alumnus and career employee with Chevron oil, said helping was a "good way for the girls to see that there's a need in White County, a big need."
The blessing of ministry
Although Easter has passed, Creswell still looks forward to helping at the food pantry in the future. "I have been blessed by what God has given me," she said. "I have a servant's heart, and going to the pantry and seeing how happy the kids were to have an Easter basket showed me that there are ways to meet a need in people's lives while also sharing the Gospel with them."
"The entire team fell in love with the food pantry just like I did," Creswell added. "It was an eye-opener for everyone that so many people come to the pantry. We all learned how blessed we truly are."
Creswell reiterated the importance of helping others: "I encourage everyone to get out into White County and serve," she said. "When residents of White County see students getting involved, it shows them that we really do care. It also gives the opportunity to share Christ with people."
The White County Food Pantry is located on 1342 Hwy., Cleveland, Ga., and is open Mon.- Fri., 10-12 p.m.
Emily Grooms is a Truett-McConnell senior English major and a freelance writer for the college.