Youth at the United Methodist Church in Madison, South Dakota, collected 500 pounds of food for the hungry people in their community rather than handing out or collecting candy for Halloween.
Madison United Methodist Church is a part of the Dakotas Annual Conference
Youth gathered at the church, looked at the map of those people who wanted to donate items, and divided into three teams. The teams, driven by a parent or youth group leader, went to homes and collected nonperishable food items.
The food drive has been named "Reverse Trick or Treating." Instead of going to homes and requesting candy, youth go to homes and request nonperishable food items and donate the items collected back to the community.
Sandy Hock, who has been leading this activity for several years, says it all started when youth wanted to make Halloween, a non-church holiday, a little more meaningful.
“One year the youth asked the pastor. How can we make Halloween more of a church holiday? The pastor said, 'you can,'” said Hock. “After brainstorming the youth thought that people in their community might want to give food to the food pantry around Halloween.”
The first year, youth canvassed residents to collect nonperishable food items. People were eager to help but found themselves not prepared to donate items. Now, members of the congregation are notified about the upcoming food drive. They let their neighbors and the church office know to stop at their residences or neighborhood.
Food items are donated to the Lake County Food Pantry, which Hock manages. The food pantry serves people in Madison and surrounding communities. Currently, anyone who needs food is eligible to get a 10-day supply of food. The food pantry has been busy with requests since 2019 due to a flood and now during the pandemic.
“We really need food because we are trying to help as many people as possible since the flood in 2019 and during the pandemic,” said Hock. “The kids love doing the food drive. It is a way for them to do something at Halloween that is meaningful. It connects the community to the church.”
Before heading out on the food drive, youth enjoyed a light supper, that included fun treats that were prepared by Jen and Jason Maxwell. The treats from the Maxwell's have become part of the annual reverse trick or treat food drive. "They do such a great job at making special treats," said Hock. "It makes the whole night great for the youth."
Hock is now a grandmother to some of the youth who do the food drive. "Youth is the most important thing we have as a church. Helping them find their faith as a teenager is such a joy."
story by Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas UMC
This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.