SHUMWAY – Country music filled the air and Christmas toys filled lockers in the former Shumway Grade School as children patiently waited their turn to participate in Locker Blessings over the weekend.

Beecher City Country Music Artist and Sound Reinforcement Specialist Elijah Doty sang country music as a handful of families in the Five and Two Restaurant at Enduring Freedom Ministries. Enduring Freedom Ministries Executive Director Vickie Kight said the new soup kitchen name came from a bible verse that includes five loaves and two fish.

Food was available to order from the restaurant as a limited number of Families waited for their opportunity to take part in Enduring Freedom Ministries fifth annual Locker Blessings and once a month Saturday food distribution. EFM Volunteer Chief Cook Tammy Leslie kept busy cooking orders in the Five and Two Restaurant kitchen.

“We have 149 lockers reserved this year. It went up a little bit this year and I figured it probably would.” Kight said. “There have definitely been a lot of kids go through locker blessings so far.”

The home of EFM is headquartered in the former Shumway Grade School and the original student lockers still line the main hallway. Volunteers fill the old school lockers with Christmas gifts for children.

The Doedtman family of Shumway volunteered to organize the 2020 EFM locker blessings. David and Vanessa Doedtman and their daughters Grace, Audra and Sarah Doedtman gathered toys and loaded lockers for the annual event.

David and Vanessa Doedtman volunteered in the toy room putting together the contents to fill several student lockers available in the hallway.

“The donations this year have been outstanding,” Vanessa Doedtman said.

This is the first year the Doedtman family took charge of locker blessings.

“This is all about the kids,” Doedtman said. “The kids are so excited to get the presents.”

Doedtman said the contents of each locker varied.

“We put different things in each locker according to their age,” Doedtman said.

She said some lockers were loaded with hats, books, blankets, toys, coloring books and sometimes a toy a little larger that what can fit in a locker. Blankets were hand made and donated for the locker blessings.

“The older kids always get a bible and puzzles. Every age gets a blanket,” Doedtman said. “Everything is donated.”

The Doedtman’s daughters Grace, Audra and Sarah Doedtman kept busy helping children unload their lockers and filling them back up with toys for the next child.

Grace Doedtman said she usually volunteers her time to EFM through her school. She said they usually volunteer for EFM’s Saturday food pantry distribution held once a month.

“This is the first year we’ve done locker blessings,” Grace Doedtman said. “I like the kids they are so nice. It feels good to know we are definitely helping them out.”

“The kids get so excited,” Audra Doedtman said.

In addition to locker blessings, Enduring Freedom Ministries offered their monthly food distribution either by drive-through or in-person pantry pick up limited to only a few families allowed in the pantry at a time due to COVID-19 and to maintain social distancing.

Shelly Karwoski has volunteered for EFM for one year. On Saturday, Karwoski was helping fellow 5-year volunteer Debbie Villalobos in the coat room. She said she really enjoys volunteering.

“I love seeing all of the people leaving happy,” Karwoski said. “It’s a pleasure to volunteer.”

“It makes me feel good to have the opportunity to give back to the community,” Karwoski said. “It’s the Lord’s work and he calls all of us to do the work for him.”

“I see a lot smiles on people’s faces. That’s what it’s all about,” Kight said.

Charles Mills can be reached at charles.mills@effinghamdailynews.com or by phone at 217-347-7151 ext. 126.

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