Eliminating hunger and poverty one community at a time

The Annual Season’s Blessings Community Give-A-Way at ECC during the Christmas holiday. Photo courtesy of The Experience Christian Center.

By Marlysa Thomas and Sheena Meade

The Experience Christian Center in Orlando, Fla., lives out its commitment to African-Americans, especially those living on the margins.

It provides people who are homeless with blankets and food, and once a year, the church holds a clothing and school supplies drive to ensure students are ready for school. Committed to ending hunger and poverty, the church encourages parishioners to engage in advocacy efforts.

Since first opening its doors in 2009, the ECC has supported low-income African-Americans in the greater Orlando area and has reached over 18,000 residents.

“Because it is the desire of this ministry to reduce and ultimately eliminate hunger and poverty one community at a time, we strategically, persistently, and passionately commit to address the causes of this epidemic,” said Derrick L. McRae, senior pastor of The Experience Christian Center.

Every fourth Sunday, the young adult ministry goes into the community to provide blankets and food to the homeless. ECC also provides hot meals and free bags of groceries to families struggling with hunger and poverty.

The congregation’s mid-year drive to assist school children usually yields free backpacks, school supplies, jackets, jeans, and blankets for the students. The drive was started when the congregation noticed that low-income families were having a hard time replenishing their children’s school supplies mid-year.  

“Supporting our lower-income students to finish their year as strong as they started is key toward strengthening their ability to break cycles of generational hunger and poverty,” McRae said.

The ECC has also been engaged in local, state, and national advocacy efforts to end hunger and poverty. Church members have participated in Bread’s webinars, national calls with White House officials and other faith leaders, and lobbying opportunities in the Senate.

In honor of Black History Month, the church encouraged its members to support a state-level petition that protects the voting rights of people returning to their communities after incarceration. Voting rights are directly connected to hunger and poverty. People returning from incarceration are not able to engage politically and hold elected officials accountable on issues affecting them the most, including hunger and poverty.

Over 100 signatures were collected for the petition, which was sent to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office this month.

Every day, organizations and churches like The Experience Christian Center serve hungry and poor communities by providing services and engaging in advocacy. The work of this ministry is particularly encouraging because it shows that with steadfast commitment, poverty and hunger can end, one community at a time.

Marlysa Thomas is a domestic policy advisor at Bread for the World Institute, and Sheena Meade is a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World. Dominic C. Clark, a staff member at The Experience Christian Center, contributed to this blog post.

Photo: The Annual Season’s Blessings Community Give-A-Way at ECC during the Christmas holiday. Photo courtesy of The Experience Christian Center.

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