Since 2009, when our daughter, Abigail, and her three sweet church friends decided they could do something about the food scarcity issues in their own city, our family has contributed to this important cause by organizing a neighborhood Feed Miami collection each fall and spring. And so this is the way we have spent four Saturdays out of each of the last 9 years, as seen in the photos attached. Each fall, we distribute approximately 150 bags in the two neighborhoods (Coral Gables and Palmetto Bay) we lived in during 2009. In the spring, we distribute approximately 200 bags in our current neighborhood (Palmetto Bay). We have always had a wonderful response from our neighbors, collecting at a rate of 30-50% (meaning 30-50% of our neighborhoods leave full bags of non-perishable items for us to pick up). It also means that two-thirds to one-half of our neighbors may have a Feed Miami bag in their car trunks or kitchen pantries, reminding them of this great need in our city almost every day. At least once per collection, someone will leave us several years of our bag filled to the brim. In addition to reaching out to our neighbors during these collections, allowing them to be blessed by blessing others, we have invited school and church families to participate in the distribution and collection of the bags, so that they too can be blessed by “seeing” the response from neighbors (and students earn community service hours too).
We’ve been blessed by letters of encouragement and sweet notes thanking us for serving the hungry in our city. We’ve had many Feed Miami bag recipients chase us down by car or bike to give us their full bags on collection day. There have been some occasions when we’ve had people forget to put out their bags and they have contacted Christ Journey, requesting that we come back to pick up their donation.
In all the years we have been doing our Feed Miami collection we have never come up against any resistance from our neighbors or the neighborhoods until this month’s collection. Our 10th grade daughter Rebekah and a few of her school friends were passing out bags as usual. They were approached by a new security officer, hired by the neighborhood, and informed they could not continue passing out bags for collection. He said that is was deemed as a solicitation which was against the community rules. They had already passed out bags to half of the neighborhood, and this security officer was telling us that although we didn’t need to retrieve them, we did have to stop. So here was our problem: the note on our bags said that we were going to return the following Saturday to pick up the donations. We prayed all week long that God would take care of this little inconvenience when we returned. Well, guess what? He did! Upon our arrival into the neighborhood, we immediately encountered the same security officer. We humbly approached him to notify him that we were back and would discreetly check each home’s front door to determine if there was a bag left for us. He quickly announced that he had been told by the homeowners’ association representative following our departure the previous Saturday, that our solicitation was allowed! Because we had been doing “a good thing for a long time now,” WE were exempt from the “No Solicitation” rule. This meant that now we didn’t have to sneak around the neighborhood, and…of course, God multiplied the amount of bags and quantity of food items in those bags to offset the bags we were not able to pass out originally. All Glory to God!
This has been an amazing and relatively simple service project for our family. Today, our little girl (a university freshman now), who thought that she and her friends could make a difference, has made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds who visit the food pantry every month. Our desire is to bless others as we continue to serve as a family, giving back to our community just a fraction of what He has given to us.
~ Peter, Agnes, Abigail & Rebekah Raffalski
Please download this resource if you are interested in starting a family tradition of a neighborhood Feed Miami food collection. Click here.