An “action response” from an original RENEW small group still growing strong after 27 years…

Missourians United to Combat Hunger

by Anne Scanlan, RENEW International Pastoral Services Team

In July of 2011, 385 households and 985 people were given food, clothing, and financial assistance thanks to the non-profit entity known as MUNCH (Missourians United to Combat Hunger). In the community of Willow Springs, MO—population 7,500—this is really something special.

MUNCH grew from just a seedling of an idea. In 1984, a RENEW small Christian community at Sacred Heart Parish, led by Mildred, the parish coordinator, and Millicent, her sister and assistant, selected an action response activity to help the less fortunate. They decided to host a dinner and to collect and share food for Thanksgiving – one Thanksgiving. The effort went so well, they decided to do it again at Christmas – one Christmas. Millicent recalls a woman remarking, it would seem if that folks are hungry at Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are probably hungry throughout the year. Thanksgiving and Christmas grew to once a month and it just took off from there.

Picking up the idea from the RENEW group, the parish's Social Concerns Committee became involved in this outreach ministry, and other denominations came onboard as well. Guided by the vision and wisdom of Sacred Heart's pastor, Fr. Sherman Wall, a non-profit organization was formed to secure the MUNCH’s future.

Fr. Sherman Wall outside the MUNCH building.
Fr. Wall and original RENEW participant, Millicent.

During the early years, Bishop Law sent a donation from the diocese to show his support, as did friend of his from a neighboring region. The word was spreading. Soon, the parish facility could not hold the food contributions, so Fr. Wall applied for a grant to build a facility to house MUNCH. The money he received funded the construction of the building that houses the organization today.

This grass-roots not-for-profit is sustained by donations, an eleven-member board of directors, and volunteers. No one receives a salary.

Willow Springs is a town whose resources are limited, but whose residents have found a way to make sure everyone gets the basic needs of life—physically, emotionally, and even spiritually—for all is born and thrives through prayer.

Parishes in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO recently completed RENEW International’s four-year process of adult faith formation and evangelization, Why Catholic? Journey through the Catechism.