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Local church lends helping hand

Chris Schoonover
Leesville Daily Leader

With schools out for the foreseeable future, kids across Vernon Parish are missing lunch and breakfast that is usually offered to them.

Jack Osteen, Pastor at Leesville First Assembly of God, offered free meals to Vernon Parish students that need to eat.

"Over 70 percent of the students in our parish are on free or reduced lunch, and whenever I realized that these students wouldn't be given meals during this shutdown, I just thought we needed to do something," he said. "I just formed a little team, got with some folks and asked what I could do to feed them. The people stepped up – church members, city council members, and Veteran's place. Today, two ladies showed up in aprons and said that they wanted to serve."

The Vernon Parish School Board announced it will be serving meals to students starting on Monday, but Osteen is picking up the slack until then.

"Because of my faith, it wasn't even a thought," Osteen said. "It was something that needed to be done."

The food and financial donations have been given by local businesses, churches and organizations, along with a business in California that saw a post on Facebook.

On Wednesday, they served 155 families for lunch and 75 for breakfast.

"A couple of years ago, I knew those numbers after seeing it on a website," Osteen said. "After seeing those numbers, I thought how could we serve the kids in our community better. Those numbers are not decreasing. Someone has to feed them."

The volunteers helping serve these meals are keeping their numbers small as social distancing is key to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

"We haven't had more than 10 people come up, and it's working great," he said. "We had two different shifts today – a breakfast and lunch crew."