The Giving Spirit

Kristie Disbrow, the founder of Matthew’s Ministry, packs the organization’s iconic red wagon full of non-perishable food items to be distributed to Brunswick County school children who will not have enough food at home. Photo by Chris Webster

Two years ago, Kristie Disbrow joined a local Moms in Touch group—a chapter of an international non-profit in which mothers gather together to pray for their children and their children’s schools. The first request received by the Brunswick County organization sent a shockwave through the women. A teacher asked the moms to pray for a student who did not have food at home—he was coming to school hungry.

“At the time of that request I remember thinking, ‘Wow, that is odd that there would be a child who didn’t have any food at home,’” Disbrow recalls. “The next day I went to the teacher and asked if my family could provide food for this family. Her reply shocked me—she said that there were several families in the school that did not have adequate food at home. I became determined to ‘fix’ that, and the first solution I could think of was to e-mail my girlfriends and tell them that I needed food. It all began with a small bin on my front porch (that still sits on my porch).  As the needs continued to grow, the food kept coming in.”

Since Disbrow felt the unquietable need to provide support for these children, the humble beginnings have surged to feed an average of 500 children per week. Backpacks—separate from the ones they use for school books—stuffed with non-perishable items are sent home each Friday and returned on Monday, ready to be filled again. These bags compensate for weekends and holidays when the kids don’t have access to school lunches.

Disbrow’s young 501(c)(3) organization became known as Matthew’s Ministry, called such after the bible verse Matthew 25:40—simply put, “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”

Currently Matthew’s Ministry caters to Southport, Jesse Mae, Bolivia, Supply, Virginia Williamson elementary schools, South Brunswick Middle, and South Brunswick and West Brunswick high schools.

“I also work with social workers in the county who contact me after a home visit and discover there is a lack of food in the home,” Disbrow explains. “These children have attended Shallotte Middle, Waccamaw Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, Union Elementary, Town Creek Elementary and Cedar Grove Middle School.”

Disbrow never knows the identity of the children receiving backpacks due to school confidentiality. “But teachers, social workers, guidance counselors and parent facilitators tell me that the response is one of gratitude and excitement from the children on Friday when the bags are sent home.”

To help with the increased demand during the holidays, Southport Magazine is sponsoring a food drive for Matthew’s Ministry from December 3rd through 21st. Several businesses have opened their doors to accept donations for the organization during the drive, including: Brunswick Family Medicine (211 and Atlantic Ave. location); Cape Fear Fitness; Coastal Cosmetic Dentistry (Bolivia and Oak Island locations); Color Me Carolina; Farm Bureau (River Rd. location); First Community Bank (downtown Southport); Geddings and Kleva,  Attorneys at Law; Johnson and Moore,  Attorneys at Law; Moore St. Market; Oak Island Accommodations; Sally Winey Bears; Island Healing Chiropractic; Nails by Michelle (at Carol’s Mane Attraction); and the St. James Community Building.

In January 2011, Southport Realty donated space in its 727 N. Howe St. location to store food. A little red wagon was placed in the lobby so folks can drop off donations regularly.

Items Matthew’s Ministry can accept are soups, Chef Boy-R-Dee items, mac ‘n’ cheese, Ramen noodles, cereal, peanut butter, jelly, pasta sauce, pasta, granola bars, crackers, fruit cups, and applesauce. Food should not be brought in glass containers—because the food often travels with small children, plastic containers and pop top lids are preferred.

Within the non-profit, about 30 volunteers help Disbrow shop for food and deliver it to the schools, as well as pack backpacks. Every school except for Southport Elementary packs their own bags, which is handled by a social worker, guidance counselor or parent facilitator. Volunteers pack bags each Thursday at 9 a.m. at Southport Realty for Southport Elementary.

Though Disbrow is infinitely grateful for the help she receives on a regular basis, the demand for food continues to rise. Thus, the demand for kind-hearted folks to chip in is on the rise. Plans are in the works to provide food for seven more county schools in 2013: Town Creek, Lincoln, Belville and Union elementary schools, plus Leland, Waccamaw and Shallotte middles. This will increase Matthew Ministry’s reach to over 1,000 children.

“I have a need for shoppers,” Disbrow tells. “I provide a shopping list and all receipts are reimbursed by Matthew’s Ministry. I am also in need of food or monetary donations. All donations are tax deductible. Needs change each month and there is a place on my website, www.MatthewsMinistry.com, to sign up for my monthly newsletter.”

Monetary donations can be sent to 5149 Fernwood Dr., Southport, NC 28461. Donations can also be made on the organization’s website via Paypal.

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