A local church wants people to know it doesn’t matter how big or small, young or old, rich or poor they are, everyone can do something to help others and please God.

That is the message behind Seymour Christian Church’s annual vacation Bible school community service project this week to raise tons of food for local food pantries.

Since Sunday, the church has been collecting canned goods and other nonperishable food items to feed the hungry and address food insecurity in Seymour. The last day for VBS was Thursday, but the church at 915 Kasting Road will continue to accept donations through Sunday morning.

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As of Wednesday night, a total of 18 tons of food had been donated. Boxes of canned vegetables, soup and crackers, cereal and cases of peanut butter and jelly filled the hallways and the church sanctuary, and volunteers kept bringing in and stacking more.

Most needed items include spaghetti sauce and pasta, peanut butter and jelly, pancake mix and syrup, soup and crackers, macaroni and cheese, cereal, salt, pasta skillet dinners, canned vegetables, fruits and meats, chili beans and canned potatoes.

This is the sixth year for the project. Last year’s drive resulted in 29 tons of food being collected, much more than the first goal of 1 ton six years ago, said Love Lockman, children’s pastor and wife of head pastor, Bill Lockman.

Lockman said she didn’t set a number as a goal this year and just wanted everyone to do what they could, and that would be enough for God.

“I’m just overwhelmed and so proud,” Lockman told the 250 children and adults gathered at the church for vacation Bible school Wednesday evening. “I don’t know where we’re going to put it all. Maybe Pastor Bill will have to stand on cans to preach on Sunday.”

All of the donations will go to stock the shelves at Community Provisions of Jackson County Inc. food pantry and The Alley Kitchen, which prepares free, hot meals daily for the hungry.

The food will be loaded onto a semi truck donated by Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Seymour and delivered by a Wal-Mart truck driver to the two locations.

Support from the community over the years has grown, but many people still aren’t aware of the need or how they can help, Lockman said.

“People get wrapped up in their own world and don’t think about it,” she said.

Most of the collecting is being done by the church’s youngest members.

“My passion is to show kids that they can do something,” Lockman said. “I love to see the kids involved and find joy in serving.”

Avery Williams, 7, of Seymour, said it makes her feel good knowing she is helping other children have food.

“I just want to help,” she said. “I don’t care if I bring in the most, as long as I do something.”

This year, she brought in about 1,500 pounds of food herself.

Avery has been collecting food for the drive since she was 3.

She pulls a wagon through the neighbor-hood and knocks on doors asking for donations, and she even has made video commercials her mother has posted on Facebook. She also visits local businesses to ask for donations of money to purchase food.

“She does all the work herself, and she just loves doing it,” Kylinda Williams said of her daughter. “She’s got a big heart.”

Although she doesn’t worry about when or if she’s going to eat, Avery said that’s not the case for many children right here in Jackson County.

“One in four children here is going hungry and not eating enough,” she said of what she had learned from participating in the project.

Avery said she plans to show her baby sister, Ansley, who is just 7 weeks old, how to collect food when she gets old enough.

“They’ll be a dynamic duo for sure,” Kylinda Williams said.

This year, church members also are working to help feed people in Haiti by partnering with Lifeline Christian Mission in Ohio. Adults in the church worked to pack 40,000 meals while children participated in vacation Bible school activities.

Setting up assembly lines in the fellowship room, volunteers measured out specific amounts of rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables and a flavoring/vitamin mix that filled the bags. Each bag is weighed, sealed and then boxed to be shipped out to orphanages and feeding programs serving people in the Caribbean, Central America and North America.

It costs just 21 cents a meal to fund the food that is packaged.

“Most of them eat just one meal a day, and this is their one meal,” Lockman said.

Just one bag serves a family of five to six people, said Rob McCabe with Lifeline Christian Mission. The program started in 1980 and also builds schools to provide education to children and health clinics to provide medical care.

This is the first time the mission has worked in Seymour.

Originally, Lockman said she planned to do $5,000 worth of meals, but after taking up an offering at church for the project, they had $8,000 to invest.

McCabe said he can’t wait to come back to the area for another event.

“I want to compliment the people of Seymour,” he said. “I travel all over the country and go to all sizes of churches, even churches that have like 10,000 members, but the spirit here of the people of Seymour, I’ve never seen before. I’ve seen energy, and I’ve seen love, and I’ve seen generosity, but the whole package and to this extreme, the standard has been raised.”

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January Rutherford is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. She can be reached at jrutherford@tribtown.com or 812-523-7069.