CAM volunteer

    Eight-year volunteer Norm Cizek finishes packing food bags at Christian Ministries.

    In 1984, when Branson was still a somewhat sleepy, off-the-beaten-path community, 11 churches met to discuss a growing problem: how to minister to the poor and needy of this community in a structured way.

    Each church was experiencing increasing demands on both resources and involvement of church staff from people begging for assistance, and there was evidence of duplication of services and abuse of resources by some clients. These churches joined with other community leaders and formed a joint ministry named Christian Action Ministries, better known as CAM, to serve as the local outreach food pantry.

Starting out

    The 11 churches were Branson Bible Church, Branson Christian Church, Branson Hills Assembly of God, Branson United Methodist, Nazarene Church of Branson, First Baptist Church, First Presbyterian Church, Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church, Our Savior Lutheran and St. Paul’s Lutheran Churches that later became Faith Lutheran Church, Community of Christ Church, and Shepherd of the Hills Episcopal Church. The board of directors spent a year building the foundation of the organization and identifying the most pressing needs of the community. With the cooperation of these participating churches and the community, CAM opened the food pantry in March 1985.

    The first location for Christian Action Ministries was on the third floor of the Old Presbyterian Church.

    “We lugged groceries up the stairs, and then clients carried groceries down the stairs,” according to Evelyn Rader, the first secretary of the board. “What a workout.”

Growing up

    In 1989, the Jack Herschend Family Foundation purchased the building at 1118 Stanley Street so CAM could move into a ground-level location. CAM is now located at 610 S. 6th Street in the lower level of the Faith Community Health Center Building, formerly the grade school. In between that gap, CAM was located temporarily across 76 Country Boulevard from Wal-Mart, and then located in the lower level of the old Catholic Church.

    It goes without saying that with the tremendous growth of our community the need for CAM has grown tremendously in the past 30 years.

A day’s work

    CAM added My Neighbor’s Pantry in Forsyth and a mobile outreach to Bradleyville and Protem to its ministry 5 years ago. In 2014 CAM assisted 17,711 families or 48,446 individuals. That is an average of 1,475 families each month or 4,037 individuals. A four-day supply of food, or 12 meals, is distributed to each person. In 2014 CAM distributed the equivalent of 581,352 meals.

    On an average day in the Branson pantry, volunteers will interview about 50 families. On that day about 774 cans of basic food will be sent out. On a very busy day of about 90 families, just over 1,200 cans of food will be distributed. Over 651,000 pounds of food was distributed in 2014. CAM follows the government plate of nutritious foods that includes canned vegetables, canned fruit, mac & cheese, pasta, tomato product, soup, peanut butter, cereal, bread, frozen items of meat, and eggs and milk when available. CAM is totally supported by the community through donations from individuals, churches, organizations, food drives, and grants.

    CAM is not government funded, and is mostly staffed with volunteers. It takes a lot of money to be able to support the ministry of assisting our neighbors in need with food.

    Donations are needed on a constant basis.

    “Money is more important to us because of our buying power,” said Executive Director Pat Davis, “CAM is a partner with Ozarks Food Harvest, and we can purchase most food for 18 cents per pound. What that means is if a donor purchases a box of cereal for $2.50 instead of giving us money, CAM could purchase that same box of cereal for 18 cents a box. We can impact more people and purchase more food through OFH. It’s not that we don’t want the non-perishable food items, it’s just that our purchasing power is so much stronger.”            CAM has the experience and the staff to handle these requests for help, but continues to need the participation of the churches, individuals, and the community in order to provide the growing number of families in crisis.

Clothes for children

    Another program that was started in the beginning with the food pantry is Clothe-A-Child. In July and August, funds are requested in order to purchase gift cards from Vanity Fair to distribute to qualified families of school kids to purchase new clothes for the school year. Having something new to wear is always exciting and fun. This year the gift cards will be $40 to purchase items of clothing or shoes at Vanity Fair. It certainly won’t buy a lot, but the gift card will help with a few new items including underwear.

    “I was shocked that some kids are sent to school not wearing underwear,” Davis said. “If you think about it, parents struggle to purchase the very basic things, and underwear is not seen as needed. I remember one single mom who came in with her daughter who was going into the 2nd grade. The mom was in tears because she couldn’t afford new clothes for her daughter. She was asking for a thrift shop voucher when I also gave her a $35 gift card. The little girl was thrilled at the thought of going shopping. Two hours later she called to tell me what she had bought with the gift card — and she had bought some underwear.

    “That was so heartbreaking, and yet it was such a warm feeling that CAM had had a part in helping this little girl feel excited and blessed.”

    Are your kids or grandkids excited about getting a new outfit to start out the school year? Are they excited to go shopping for their own clothes and shoes? Clothes cost a lot these days, and most kids want way more than what the budget can handle. Wouldn’t you want to be a silent partner in helping to make a child’s back to school exciting and memorable? Something new helps that child’s self-esteem perk up. Peer pressure is huge for kids.

To help

    Your donation is needed now to help CAM continue to feed those in need and assist with school clothes. You can mail your check to CAM at 610 S. 6th St., Ste. 102, Branson, Mo. 65616 or drop it by the pantry in Branson Monday-Friday or in Forsyth at 10726 E. Hwy 76, Ste. E Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. You can also visit our website at christianactionministries.org and donate thru PayPal.

    Your assistance is greatly needed, not just now, but please remember CAM each month. Thank you for your continued support of CAM. Let’s make the next 30 years just as awesome as the last 30 years.

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