Gusting winds and below freezing temperatures Feb. 2 through Friday, Feb. 4, made life that much harder for homeless people trying to survive in and around Cottonwood.
When temperatures drop, few comforts compare to the sustenance a hot meal provides. Locally, several nonprofits volunteer to feed the hungry just such a meal on Fridays starting at 5 p.m. Each of the seven groups, mostly churches, takes a turn on alternate Fridays to provide the meal.
Known as Hearts for the Hungry and Homeless, the coalition serves hot meals for no charge to an average 120 people at Riverfront Park each week, Verde Valley Food Council Director Sandy Cravens said.
Friday’s meal, served by New Hope Christian Fellowship, consisted of hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza donated by a local restaurant and a variety of side dishes and snacks, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.
“We’ve had everything from spaghetti to prime rib to chicken enchiladas,” depending on who is responsible for serving the meal that day, Cravens said.
Between hot meals served through Hearts for the Hungry and as part of the Lighthouse Mission in Cornville, New Hope feeds nearly 475 people every week.
“For a church of 40 or 50, that’s a lot of people,” New Hope co-pastor Shawn Corbin said.
A line of people in various modes of dress wound around the ramadas at Riverfront Park Feb. 4, each person waiting his or her turn for something to eat.
“They’re not here just for food,” Cravens said. “They’ve become kind of a family. It’s like a family dinner for them.”
“The thing is this meal puts regular people in close contact with homeless, needy people,” Corbin said. “It blesses us and it blesses them.”
David Tardiff, a member of Mountain View United Methodist Church, helped serve. He greeted old friends, many of whom are living the same hard life he lived before he stopped the behaviors that kept him in poverty.
“I used to be a recipient of food banks and food lines,” Tardiff said. “These people are very near and dear to my heart.”
“When you live in missions and live off food banks and soup lines, it’s a hard, cold life. You don’t know if you can trust anyone,” Tardiff said.
Marce Hall, an Emmanuel Fellowship member, said her volunteer work focuses on people.
“It’s about faith, but really it’s about being with the poor,” Hall said. “I felt led to do this. I came from a bad background and I know how bad it can get. Some people don’t realize they can get help.”
Hearts for the Hungry and Homeless is just one of several organizations serving free hot meals in the Verde Valley. Other include Old Town Mission, Bread of Life Mission and Lighthouse Mission. Nonprofit organizations contributing to the Hearts for the Hungry and Homeless program include: Mountain View United Methodist Church, Emmanuel Fellowship, New Hope Christian Fellowship, Calvary Chapel Verde Valley, Verde Council of the Knights of Columbus, Verde Valley Christian Church and the Cottonwood Assembly of God.
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