Stories of the Spirit: Crossroads Connection
“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.” – Psalm 146:5-7
It’s a Sunday morning—you’re rushing around to get yourself and your family ready for church. To save time, you decide you’ll eat breakfast after worship, but then, about halfway through the service, your stomach starts rumbling. The pastor is sharing their sermon, but you’re only partly listening, the kids are falling asleep and getting cranky, and you’re all ready to get something to eat. Tough start to the day. Now imagine instead of sitting through worship, you’re sitting through an entire school day. It’s hard to focus when you’re hungry and running on an empty fuel tank.
This is the reality for so many kids in America. One in eight children live in households without consistent access to food (Source: School Nutrition Association). While there are some government programs that are aiming to help, schools and students still need local support. That’s where Crossroads Connection comes in.
Crossroads Connection (Crossroads) wants to “alleviate hunger as an obstruction to classroom learning.” Crossroads started as a small mission by two individuals, but as it grew, they were ready to pass the baton and watch the ministry flourish beyond packing lunches in their living room. Now, Crossroads is a ministry of Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church (SOTH), providing weekend food bags for almost 300 children in 12 different schools. They have grown from small, single-person grocery runs to shipments last year with nine pallets worth of food from BJs.
The Synod Communications Team met with Tracie Schortemeyer (the previous Director) and Andy Zembower (the current Director), both part of the core team at Crossroads, to learn more about the organization. Both Tracie and Andy started with Crossroads and volunteer packers and then started volunteering some of their other skill sets to the organization. For example, Andy was able to utilize some of his professional experience in business to help Crossroads figure out a new facility and funding when they transitioned to leadership. They’re both self-proclaimed members of the GSD “Get Stuff Done” team.
How it all Works
Volunteers take the lead for most of the work Crossroads does—going shopping at their partner wholesaler, BJs, packing bags of weekend food, organizing Blue Bag food drive campaigns, coordinating with churches and schools, and delivering meals.
Crossroads relies on about nine local organizations that regularly come to volunteer, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Rotary Club, a wide variety of churches, and businesses. They supplement their big grocery runs with the Blue Bag program, where partners set out branded blue tote bags to get filled up with specific shelf-stable food items. Then, the Crossroads team goes out to collect them and bring the food to the Crossroads facility.
Their “Champions for Crossroads Kids” sponsorship program, started in July 2022, is another new way they are guaranteeing they can feed all the students in need. Businesses or individuals can sponsor a child for $250/year—over 90 kids are sponsored currently, so this program covers almost ⅓ of their needs and growing!
There have been challenges over the years—understandably, the pandemic changed a lot about how Crossroads operated and put a pause on some of their ability to reach students. Previously there were some temporary statewide programs. Now, students need to prove their eligibility to receive free lunch and breakfast.
Without programs like Crossroads, access to healthy, regular kid-friendly meals would be even more limited. In 2022, Crossroadds received an ARPA grant that allowed them to expand to 12 schools, meaning they doubled the number of students they were feeding.
Long term, Crossroads hopes to offer their support to other schools, more students and possibly create other food programs like summer food or “food truck” delivery options. They are also expanding their partnerships and emphasizing the health and wellness benefits of reducing food insecurity.
God Continues to Provide as the Number of Students in Need Grows
Crossroads sees the Spirit at work in a multitude of ways. While all of their work is anonymous (the schools and counselors ensure that students’ identities are kept private), they don’t need to see a student’s face to know that their work is making a difference. Crossroads serves all children in need regardless of their social stature, culture or religious beliefs. The ability to serve without knowing who, without questioning why, is a direct answer to God’s call for us.
The number of students served keeps growing. God has continued to provide throughout this growth—facility space, funding, and access to quality, affordable food to pack have never been limiting factors. Crossroads continues to say “yes” and, by the grace of God, continues to be able to meet their promises. In the words of one social worker:
“We are forever grateful to all of the angels at Crossroads Connection making this partnership possible to alleviate hunger and therefore making it possible for students to have their nutritional needs met in order to learn to their optimal potential.”
The spirit also moves across communities and across faiths—while started in a Lutheran congregation, Crossroads Connection partners with individuals and organizations of all backgrounds and religious affiliations. They are seeing a trend of multi-faith community involvement. Service brings people together, all working towards the same goal—happy, healthy, and ready-to-learn kids.