The End Time Joseph Program, ETJP, located at The Door in Laurie, feeds approximately 1,200 people every month. The number has risen over the 18 years they have been serving the hungry in the Lake Area. The numbers spike in the winter months and with the current economic trend, there is an alarming increase in the number of two-parent families who don't qualify for food stamps, yet they do not have enough money to feed their family.
"There is no reason a person should go hungry in our community," said ETJP director Bonnie Collett.
Collett has been helping with the program since it started and she said unemployment is the main reason for the lack. Sixty percent of the food recipients are families who just can't make their dollars stretch to the end of the month. Twenty-five percent are elderly persons who receive a small social security check that barely covers their housing costs. The program delivers food to two federally assisted senior citizen apartments, one in Laurie and one in Camdenton. Some of the weakest recipients are the handicapped who fall between the disability cracks and can't work to earn what they need, even if they wanted to.
Collett has gotten to personally know many of the people who come to the pantry every month.
"When I see the need of the people it breaks my heart. They look dirty, and they may not smell so good, but there are reasons. I look into their eyes, and I can see into their heart and I know they don't like how they are. Jesus said they are lost, without a shepherd, they have no direction and no one to show them the way," she said. "They are out there just wandering around and trying to do the best that they can and many are not making it. It is a joy to be able to help those that we can."
The unique thing about the ETJP program, that sets them apart from other food pantries, is that every person is given the opportunity for prayer and comfort.
"They are coming for physical food, but what they really want is a drink for their dry and thirsty spirit. Jesus said, "I am the "living water" and if anyone drinks of Me, they will never thirst again.' They just want hope," said Collett.
Collett said they say, "I don't have enough money for food, and we take care of the food and then we pray for the rest.' Volunteers prayed for one man who needed a job and he came back happy to tell them he got hired three days later. Many situations improve to the point they don't need help anymore. Some give donations when they get back on their feet, and many are appreciative, she noted.
The name, The End Time Joseph Program, comes from the account in the bible when Joseph was told by God to prepare for a coming famine. Because of his obedience, he was able to feed not only his nation, but many others.
"With the world economy as it is, the church needs to step up and offer hope. Clearly the welfare system is not working," said Collett.
The basis of the ETJP is found in James 1:27 which instruct believers that the main purpose of the church is to "take care of widows and the orphans."
"The church has not been doing her job and now people rely too much on the failing government welfare system," said Collett.
The food giveaway is held typically the third Saturday of each month. The doors open at 9 a.m., but people line up at 5:30 a.m., even in the freezing winter weather. "I tell them they don't have to get there that early but they are desperately afraid we will run out of food. We have never run out of food in 18 years, and no one has ever been turned down," said Collett.
The food is supplied for free by the Food Bank for Central and Northeast Missouri in Columbia. They are only one of five food banks in the United States that don't charge for food. The director of the food bank in Columbia is Peggy Kirkpatrick.
"Kirkpatrick and a team of wonderful people pray and work tirelessly to get food and donations from stores, farms and manufacturers to feed the hungry in central and north Missouri," said Collett. "Kirkpatrick fights tooth and nail, and she refuses to start charging for food, she says she will do whatever it takes."
For more information, call Collett at 573 374-6323 or go to www.openeddoor.org.