When children are in school, they are guaranteed a meal, said the Rev. Dwight “Ike” Reighard, the president and CEO of MUST Ministries. When they’re home for the summer, he said getting fed can become a lot harder.
“Some children are not able to eat at all in the summer,” Reighard said.
That’s where the MUST Ministries Summer Lunch Program comes in.
Every weekday for 10 weeks, as many as 6,100 children received sack lunches packed and hand delivered by volunteers, Reighard said. The lunches are brought to targeted locations, such as playgrounds and YMCAs, suggested by school counselors throughout the area. Businesses, churches and schools come together to lend a hand.
Randy Scamihorn, a Cobb school board member, had nothing but good things to say about MUST.
“I worked with MUST for almost 15 years while I was at North Cobb,” he said. “We would send around 10 larges bags of clothes and shoes their way every year.”
Scamihorn said MUST Ministries has done great things for the community and hopes it continues its cause.
“They’re absolutely stellar people,” he said.
Reighard, who lives in Powder Springs and is the pastor at Piedmont Church in Marietta, said MUST Ministries reaches 25 percent of the about 85,000 people living in poverty in Cobb with the program. He attributes the success of the program to the people.
“It’s our signature program,” he said. “Almost everyone I talk to goes, ‘Hey, I helped out last year!’ We all have the same heart, we all love children and do not think they should be hungry.”
The program has been in operation for 43 years. Reighard has been president for the last three years and said he loves what he does.
“What blesses me the most is seeing a child become so excited over a
decorated brown paper bag,” he said.
“It’s an absolute privilege to do this.”
Reighard said feeding the kids is not the only focus of MUST.
“We want to blend education in with what we do,” he said. “Every Friday, we bring books to the kids. We’re hoping these kids will break the cycle of poverty and we believe education is the most effective path.”
Reighard said the services MUST Ministries provides wouldn’t be possible without the Cobb community.
“The level of cooperation in this county is unbelievable,” he said. “These people uplift each other. The passion in Cobb is spectacular.”
MUST Ministries needs more help though, he said.
“We wish to do more, but it’s becoming harder,” Reighard said. “We usually give 10 to 12 pounds of food per person. Now, we can only give about eight pounds.”
Fourteen percent of Cobb’s population are below the poverty line, according to 2008-12 data by the American Community Survey. It also says the number of individuals and families considered to be living in poverty in Cobb has doubled since 2000.
“We’re seeing a lot of people who used to donate now have to rely on MUST services,” Reighard said. “It’s truly heartbreaking.”
Reighard said MUST Ministries will continue to serve as long as the burden remains.
“Hunger does not take time off,” he said. “We don’t either.”
For more information on how to help MUST Ministries, go to www.mustministries.org or call (770) 427-9862.