I remember driving all the way from Durham to Charlotte on a cold Saturday morning several years ago with my family to volunteer for some kind of food packing event. We didn’t know what to expect. None of us had any experience with this type of ministry before, but we were prepared to serve. We had also heard from Jeff and Suzanne Yoh that this particular event was kind of a big deal as there was a milestone of sorts that was going to be surpassed that day. Upon arrival, we could sense that there was a buzz in the air.
Servants with a Heart packed their One Millionth meal that day.
One. Million. Meals.
We stopped in the middle of the event to celebrate and I remember Jeff and Suzanne were so excited and proud of that achievement and rightfully so. One Million was written on the special box of food.
The media took notice and we watched them on the national news!
Fast forward. Waaaaay forward to February 2019 and more than 15 Million meals later, not only is the ministry thriving, it has grown in size and scope. So much so that it has spread well outside of the Charlotte area, with food packing events here in the part of NC that I call home. I was so excited to be asked to lead the annual event on the Duke campus with the Duke Center for Christianity and Scholarship. I enjoy working with college kids. So much energy.
As a group, we came together in spite of the cold rain. College students have significant competing priorities these days, but about 120 of them came together that day, some from as far as Raleigh. Several groups of philanthropic Duke students showed up. A track team from NC State. A few grizzled adult food packing veterans. A volunteer fork lift driver. Representatives of Duke Athletics and Facilities.
Remarkably, in spite of the rain, there was a lot taking place on the Duke campus that day. Baseball games, Lacrosse game. Tearing down Krzyzewskiville in the mud. A huge event celebrating Women and Girls in Sports.
What I enjoy the most about these events is the ability to make such a huge impact. During our event, we packed 50,000 meals. And we did it in just a few hours. Everyone stepped up. What we hadn’t experienced, we figured out on the fly. Everyone there was willing to do whatever was asked of them. And always with a smile and a servant’s heart. There’s a sense of purpose and accomplishment as these events wind down that is like no other. Everyone’s tired – but a good tired. 100s of people will have access to food when they may otherwise go without. So as the last pallet was loaded on to the truck headed back to Charlotte, as the cold, soaked shivering forklift driver headed home and I walked the empty gym, I remembered the smiles and laughter of the volunteers who came together and made a difference that day.
Jeffrey Husen, Newly Minted SWH Eastern NC Event Manager!
Did you know your school’s first packing event could be done for free? We love to pack in greater Charlotte-area schools and are happy to go into any local public school and provide an educational program and pack 50,000 meals. For subsequent events, schools and/or students raise 15 cents per meal to pack food with us. We have many schools that have already packed with us for years!
Our teaching includes information about hunger, nutrition (both the nutrition of students and the nutrition of our food, and why needs are sometimes different), poverty, and Nicaragua (where we ship 90% of our food). We also talk a bit about Servants With a Heart, explaining that we are a completely volunteer-run nonprofit with no overhead; all funds we receive go directly to packing food.
We try to make things fun and relatable for students of all ages and seek to enhance the food-packing experience, making it more meaningful because the students learn that what they will do will make a big difference in another child’s life. Packing meals can be very impactful and we hope that by doing tangible volunteer work, students are instilled with a sense of the importance of having a servant’s heart. We are truly blessed and it is wonderful to share that blessing with others!
Recently we packed with St. James Elementary in Denver, North Carolina. One student said the experience “was way more fun that I thought it was going to be!” and Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Heffner shared that three of her students proclaimed at the end of their packing hour that “this was the best day of their lives!” We hope that many schools will follow the lead of St. James and choose to pack with us.
If you have a school in mind that might like to work with Servants With a Heart, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Servants With a Heart has surpassed a longstanding goal of distributing one million meals within the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area. We are so grateful for the more than 100,000 volunteers who have contributed to this wonderful milestone, as well as for the local organizations that receive and distribute our food.
We are happy to work with a number of local groups, including Common Cupboard. They have been a monthly recipient of our meals for many years, receiving 20-30 boxes per month. “We try to provide a wide range of food through our three Common Cupboard food pantries. The food this amazing grassroots organization provides has helped us immeasurable to further our service to hungry families in our community,” says Keith Adams, Executive Director Common Heart in Indian Trail, NC.
For most of the years since we started packing food in 2011, we have strived to keep ten percent of our food in our local area. Passing the one million local meal mark is a very exciting event for all of us!
Hello, my name is Ashley. I am a fourteen year old eighth grade student, and my family and I have been working with Servants with a Heart for six years. That means I started working with this organization when I was eight years old! Quickly my family gained interest in this operation. Servants with a Heart is a great opportunity to serve, no matter how old you are. I love working with Servants with a Heart, and it's not just because of the service hours—it's because I get to work to be the hands and feet of Christ with the people I love, doing the job I love.
I know that it's hard to find serving opportunities for your children. As a kid I always wanted to do Operation Christmas Child or the Rescue Mission; both amazing operations, but I was not of age. Servants with a Heart made me feel important and needed, even as a child. As a younger child I felt and still feel loved by all who work with this organization and I love that. When children come to our packing events we help them grow with the Lord and help them serve the Lord. We can give them jobs suitable to their age, but also jobs that adults could easily do. I know from experience that this makes me feel more mature and needed.
My family is part of the leadership team for Servants with a Heart. We run events, we clean dishes, we do paperwork, and so much more, but as a fourteen year old girl that means a lot to me. Servants with a Heart isn't just my happy place—it's also my family. I invite you to come to our next packing event and help us serve the Lord!
Thank you to Mark Szymanski for this blog about his experience at McKee Road Elementary!
The alarm sounded at 5am and I jumped out of bed, looking forward to the day ahead. I was part of a team preparing for a packing event at McKee Road Elementary School. Upon arrival I was met by others and like bees working a hive, we unloaded the trailer truck and staged the gym with sacks of soy and rice, and plenty of boxes.
Our goal was to pack 50,000 meals. If accomplished, Servants With a Heart would pack its 16,000,000th meal, but more than that, children and families in Nicaragua and here in Charlotte would have foundational nutritious meals to help stave off serious health issues due to malnutrition.
With everything in place, the 5th grade class entered the gym and the packing commenced. Eight tables were actively engaged and the kids were loving it. One told me, "I'm glad to help because I can have anything I want to eat but other kids hardly have anything."
As the different grades came and went the excitement increased. From kindergarten to 5th grade they all seemed to work with a purpose to reach the goal…and then it happened! The box that contained the 16,000,000th meal was sealed. We did it!
The kids cheered and they knew they played a valuable part in helping children in other nations just have a meal. It took a team along with a great deal of heart and hard work. If the kids walked away with just a portion of what I felt, I know it will impact their lives. Generous living is key to a fulfilled life and they took a great first step.
Thank you to everyone at McKee Road Elementary School. You are true heroes in my book!
Mark Szymanski, UWM US Regional Leader
16 MILLION! Servants With a Heart packed its sixteen millionth meal on December 17th at McKee Road Elementary. This number was nowhere in Suzanne’s and my plans when we started the organization in 2011. We were simply looking for a place to serve together to try to learn to work together and make a difference for those less fortunate. After a couple of roles working through larger organizations, we had decided to start our own thing as we tend to be pretty entrepreneurial. As anyone who knows the two of us would agree, I thought we would work well together because I can talk about things, and she can actually get them done. We had worked with another food packing organization that sent the supplies, equipment and teams in from out of town. We believed this could be done locally better and cheaper, impacting that many more people. One of the important aspects for us is that nobody is paid through the proceeds of this charity. Everything that is raised goes to the food or its logistics.
Two important organizations helped us get started. First, there was Kids Against Hunger, a food packing organization that worked with independent nonprofits (501c3’s) around the country to pack food, very similar to a franchise concept. Second, Samaritan’s International, which is a nonprofit started by the Brown family that owns a furniture store called Furniture Outlet World in Waxhaw NC. That business supports a compound in Nicaragua where they feed up to 100,000 hungry people weekly. If you are buying furniture, please go there (the lobby is full of pictures from Nicaragua)! The Browns support all of our logistical needs with their trucks, forklifts, and warehouse space.
We started by bringing/dragging/bribing our kids and their friends to help us run packing events, creating many great memories. Eventually people with varied skills and experience started asking to help us. We now have a group of twenty-five volunteer leaders, many of whom can run events without us. Recently, another organization has assigned one of their staff to help us full-time.
In 2013, we rebranded as Servants With a Heart, a term that is very important to Suzanne and me. One of the businesses I am involved with fixes homes and other properties after insurance-related disasters. Jenkins Restorations’ mission statement is Restoring Property and Lives with a Servant’s Heart. I like to say a person with a servant’s heart has the empathy to see someone suffering and the compassion to do something about it.
We are excited for 2019 to serve along schools, churches and other community organizations to impact people suffering from hunger. We will also do more Servants With a Heart Impact Days where we open our packing lines to the public.
This journey has been amazing for Suzanne and me so far. As Christians running a non-religious nonprofit, we know God has orchestrated the success of Servants With a Heart and will continue to lead us!
—Jeffrey Yoh, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director
We are excited that you are here to learn more about how you can help hungry children and their families and to understand what make Servants With a Heart an instrument of impact. Let us know if you have any ideas for blog posts. Have you helped at a packing event? Share your story with us here.