STRONGSVILLE, Ohio - Cleveland's homeless are a little better off because of the mission work done at Strongsville United Methodist Church. When most people are heading home from work to relax, many church volunteers are just starting an evening of service to others. Most nights they serve up to 350 meals.
It happens every Wednesday night. Volunteers arrive at the church kitchen to prepare the meals and then load the blue bus from the front and back with donated food, lotions, clothes and blankets. Once the bus is full, it takes off toward some of Cleveland's poorest neighborhoods. Added just for this Wednesday's trip were wrapped Christmas presents for the kids.
"We are giving something to every child, my granddaughter sat all day yesterday and wrapped all these little presents, probably close to 200 of them," said Delmar Painting, an organizer and volunteer.
"We have had a stop where there will be 75 little children and we know that night that they got something to eat," said Jeanette Painting.
Full meals are prepared inside then delivered through a special door on the side of the bus. Volunteers scurry outside handing out presents, offering the perfect clothes and finishing with a hug. Smiles are seen all around.
"A lot of people look forward to it, some people tell us that that's the only meal they have on this particular day so the need is tremendous out here in this area," said Rev. David Whitt. "Even though they don't live in this neighborhood they still show that they care so it's just a wonderful ministry."
With everyone loaded up, the blue bus rolls on to the next stop. The need has doubled over the last few years. The blue bus makes around eight stops where many families are waiting.