Pastor Jack Chamis of Oasis of Life Christian Church was in California when he first first heard the call to feed the hungry.
"I was a pastor at a church in Southington, and we were on a missions trip to L.A.," Chamis said recently. "I met a man named George there who was deeply committed to fighting hunger, and I was so moved. I got back and thought 'How can we get involved in this?'"
Chamis researched local groups that help those in need and discovered Foodshare in Bloomfield. He and members of the Southington congregation quickly became involved and volunteered for the organization for three years before the reverend started the Oasis of Life church in Rocky Hill in 2011. Once established in Rocky Hill, Chamis approached Foodshare about starting a local, mobile food program.
"It took a little while to get going because Foodshare does their own demographic studies to determine where the areas of need are," Chamis said.
The group was successful in its quest and the pastor and about ten members of the church have spent every other Friday afternoon at Elm Ridge Park handing out produce, bread, juice, and other grocery items to eligible recipients. In order to qualify for assistance, an individual must either get some form of state aid or earn less than a specified threshold of income.
"It's really beneficial because we give people $20 - $30 worth of vegetables and food that has protein, and these are items that many people with low-income skip because they are ordinarily pretty expensive," Chamis said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman visited the local Foodshare site last Friday to honor the organization's CEO, Gloria McAdam. According to Chamis, 77 people showed up to receive food bags that day, "in spite of the rainy weather,” which was more than triple the number that came out when the program started a month ago.
"We're really pleased with its growth already," Chamis said.
"Our goal is to consistently feed 80 - 100 people every time we go out. And the program is year-round, so we feel we can do a lot of good," he said.
The Oasis of Life Christian Church administers its Mobile Foodshare program every other Friday from 1:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. at Elm Ridge Park, 376 Elm St. The next date scheduled is Aug. 3.