While many businesses and charities in Lawton were forced to close during the non-essential business closure, one local ministry managed to give out 14,674 hot meals to Lawton residents in need.
During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order closing non-essential businesses, leaving many families struggling to not only pay bills but put food on the table. Between waiting on unemployment benefits and stimulus checks to arrive, many people were left wondering how to feed their families. The Bridge House, a local ministry and charity which was already established in the area, stepped up to the challenge of feeding not only their traditional members but a flood of new members as well.
The Bridge House run by Jeff Henderson, founder and minister of M28 Ministries, said prior to COVID-19 the ministry would give out 30 to 40 meals during one of their five-days-per-week lunches held at Bridge Park, but that quickly changed when the ministry had to leave the park and work out of his house.
“We started out feeding 30-40 meals, then 80, then 100 ,then quickly 150 to 200 until an average of 272 meals per day,” Henderson said. “There were days we served over 400 meals, needless to say way more than we expected to be feeding.”
Henderson and many volunteers from local churches soon went from giving out hot lunches five days per week to six, and by the end of the 52-day shut-down had given out 14,674 meals.
“On March 20 we started serving a hot lunch six days a week at the Bridge House,” Henderson said. “We didn’t worry about how we were going to do it, we just trusted that (God) knew what he was doing and we just kept pressing on.”
The ministry was able to keep up with the demand through church donations and businesses like Golden Corral and Mike’s Sports Grill which donated excess product.
“For the first week, that same food you would get on the buffet at Golden Corral, was the same thing the people coming to Bridge House were getting,” he said. “Golden Corral really helped us out that first week when we didn’t know if we could keep up.”
As many businesses reopened and people returned to work, Henderson transitioned his charity from hot meals, to a food pantry with the goal of helping people have enough food to help them get through the month. The ministry distributes food by appointment only on the third Friday of each month.
“We give a set amount of food items based on the size of the family in need,” Henderson said. “We also give food ready to eat to the homeless more frequently. We keep the BHP (Bridge House Pantry) stocked with a set list of foods to help us package the family meals with the best meal planning possible.”
In order to access the pantry, people are required to sign up at one of the ministry’s Saturday church services. Henderson emphasized the need for men’s clothes in all sizes, but is also in need of other items as well. Those who wish to donate can visit the ministry’s website http://www.m28ministries.org/ for details and a complete list of items.
The Bridge Church meets 9:30 a.m., every Saturday at 2001 D — just 2 blocks from the Bridge Park.