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Benevolence: Home Sweet Home Ministries

It all started 101 years ago, on Thanksgiving Day 1917. Billy Shelper opened the kitchen of Home Sweet Home Ministries (HSHM) to serve the first meal of its existence.

HSHM has been a place of “Hope for all who enter” ever since. The words greet you upon entry, and they have ever since 1917.

The ministry functions as a 501(c)3 non-profit, non-denominational Christian organization providing services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness, poverty, and food insecurity in the Bloomington-Normal area.

Leslie Bunge, HSHM Communications Coordinator, nails down that, “Our mission is to demonstrate Christ’s love through innovative approaches that instill hope, restore lives, and build community.”

Thanksgiving for All

Home Sweet Home has flourished since opening its doors in 1917. The ministry now provides a three-part Thanksgiving meal each year. Around this holiday alone, they impact over 10,000 individuals.

The excitement starts by partnering with Midwest Food Bank for “Give Thanks.” Give Thanks gifts over 2,000 Thanksgiving meal boxes to families. And they are collecting right now – just a little under a month to gather 2,000 turkeys.

That’s right – each box contains an entire turkey, boxed stuffing, ingredients to make a pie, and rounds the Thanksgiving meal out with mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.

Midwest Food Bank distributes the boxes the week before Thanksgiving, so the frozen turkeys have time to thaw. Distribution dates are November 17, noon to 4 p.m. and November 19, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Leslie remembers, “As I was talking to someone receiving one of the boxes, she thanked us for helping her out. She had fallen on hard times, and it was a tradition to have Thanksgiving dinner at her house. Because of Give Thanks, her tradition carried on.”

But the festivities are only beginning.

When you walk into Home Sweet Home Ministries the day of Thanksgiving, a cheery band greets you, and turkey decorations festoon the tables from Girl Scout Troops. The air is alive with anticipation, delicious smells, and bustling servitude.

In-house, HSHM serves over 150 hot meals to the individuals and families it houses and those whose noses bring them in for a tasty dinner. Also, hot meal boxes are put together to deliver to families reliant upon “Peace Meals,” the local Meals on Wheels program. Peace Meals does not serve on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.

HSHM steps up to take the lead on these festive days. They receive a list of families using Peace Meals’ service and directly contact them to see if they will need a meal the days the program isn’t running.

And so, the deliveries go out.

Volunteers Make it Happen

All three of these activities can only happen with the help of volunteers. It takes 150 volunteers alone on Thanksgiving Day.

Add in organizing the Give Thanks’ boxes beforehand, buying/donating/picking up turkeys, staffing the HSHM kitchen on Thanksgiving Day, and physically delivering over 600 meals on Thanksgiving, and it takes an army of people to make HSHM’s holiday happenings successful.

HSHM’s Donor Relations Coordinator, Ashley Souk enthuses, “It’s so incredible to see the community coming together on the backside. Schools, businesses, Girl Scout Troops, grade-schoolers, radio stations, grocery stores – donating time or money. That’s the ‘wow’ factor of it for me.”