Pastor kicks off summer lunch program
A local pastor is once again handing out lunches at a number of Albany city parks to make sure hundreds of children don't go hungry this summer. Megan Cruz reports.
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ALBANY, N.Y. --"I used to be part of the hood, always being bad," said 12-year-old Kris Rodriguez.
But now, on most days, you can find him at the JC Club, where he volunteers for their summer feeding program which feeds close to 1,000 kids a day. He said this initiative saved his life six years ago.
"I used to just never have food," said Rodriguez.
Program organizer Pastor Charlie Muller says 30 percent of inner-city kids go to bed hungry, especially in the summer when school is out.
"It helps a lot," said Albany resident Danea Holland. "There's four kids in the house, and lunch isn't always there."
"Peanut butter and jelly, we have cheese sticks, fresh fruit, 100 percent juice, Nutribars," said Pastor Charlie. "We really try to make the food nutritious but at the same time fun. If they have a healthy summer, I believe we can have a healthy fall and school year."
Last year, the JC Club handed lunches out at 19 locations in the city. This year they're down to seven - the JC Club as well as Swinburne, upper and lower Lincoln, Oak Street, Livingston, and Ridgefield parks. The cutback is so they can add a new feature to the feeding program.
"Summer camp in the city," said Pastor Charlie. "We want some of the kids to experience the things kids would experience at summer camp outside of the city. We're going to have rock climbing walls, we're going to have kickball, team sports, we're also going to be sending a message of anti-bullying and anti-violence. We can feed the body, but if we don't feed the spirit and really encourage these kids, they can walk around with a broken spirit."
And it's that serving of fun and faith that makes this program so appetizing and fulfilling.
"Giving kids something useful they can do on their days," said Cassie Muller, JC Club's staff supervisor. "It gives them a passion; it opens their eyes to see something bigger picture."
"I go to church, I worship, talk about God," said Rodriguez. "One day I might be a minister."