MUST Ministries is a faith-based organization that provides food, housing, employment services and clothing to men, women and children in poverty, with offices in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
This summer, MUST plans to serve 250,000 sack lunches to children in eight counties during the 10 weeks of summer.
In addition to serving food, MUST also collaborates with YMCA to provide 60 to 90 minutes of activity in eight sites in a “mobile camp setting,” and every Friday, children receive a free book to prepare for the upcoming school year.
Ranettia Beasley, summer lunch coordinator for Cherokee and Pickens counties, said the program began about 18 years ago by a school teacher who knew there were children in need within her classroom.
Today, there are about 1,200 local children in Cherokee from 4 and 5 years up to 18 years that are served daily in the summer.
“It’s a whole network of people caring about other people,” she said.
Beasley said while the program brings joy to the children who receive lunch served in decorated bags and books to read, it also brings comfort to parents who may be having a hard time providing food for their children.
Kendall Jones, program director at MUST Ministries, said lunches are delivered on a bus route.
“To save our drivers from having to drive so far and recipients from having to travel so far, we try to serve in high density areas,” he said. “We’ll designate spots in those areas where a lot of kids are receiving lunches.”
Jones said routes are always being added as demand grows.
“We may have a route that we are of 50 kids on,” he said. “But by the third week of the program, we may have 75 or even 100 kids on it because as more kids in the area find out about the program, they want to become part of it. We always encourage people to contact us.”
While MUST and the Cherokee County School System together serve about 3,000 kids a day, Jones said there are more than 12,000 students in the county on free and reduced lunch.
“That’s a big number of kids still out there not being helped,” he said. “We are always looking to be able to serve more children. And anyone can contribute to the program, Jones said.
“We’re always in need of people who can make lunches to give to the distribution site and drivers to deliver lunches,” he said.
Jones also said to contact MUST if anyone is a possible recipient.
In Cobb, MUST is at 1407 Cobb Pkwy N, Marietta. For more information, call (770) 427-9862.
In Cherokee, MUST is located at 111 Brown Industrial Parkway, in Canton or call (770) 479-5397.