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Preteen tackles homelessness concerns in her community

Eleven-year-old Meghan DeLuca is a savvy veteran in advocating for the homeless and hungry

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Meghan’s first night sleeping at Cardboard Box City in 2014. (Photo provided by Erin DeLuca)

LOUISVILLE — A short walk to dinner in the nation’s capital became a life-changing experience for 8-year-old Meghan DeLuca. The New Jersey native was walking with her family in Washington, D.C., and came across several homeless people, including a few who were sleeping in boxes. Instead of ignoring them or closing her eyes to their anguish, young Meghan made a compassionate choice to do something about it. Four years later, with the help of her congregation at First Presbyterian Church of Belmar, she’s raised nearly $8,000 to help homeless individuals and families get back on their feet.

With the help of her mom, Meghan found her calling at Cardboard Box City, a one-night, annual event held near her home that raises money for a Family Promise shelter. In Cardboard Box City, participants build their own shelters out of cardboard on a Friday night, partake in a soup line dinner, listen to music and formerly homeless people convey their experiences. Participants then retire to their newly crafted cardboard “homes” for the evening. But to take part, you need to raise money.

Meghan at Cardboard Box City in 2016. (Photo provided by Erin DeLuca)

“Meghan decided she wanted to have a ‘lemonade’ stand and sell rainbow bracelets,” Erin DeLuca, Meghan’s mom, said in a story she wrote for the church newspaper in November 2014. “All year she and her Aunt Cathy made various rainbow loom bracelets, key chains and pencil toppers. She sold the items in her stand throughout the summer.”

In that first year, Meghan raised around $1,000 for Family Promise. In 2016, she upped that amount to approximately $4,000 with the help of donations from her congregation and the Monmouth Presbytery, which donated their entire $1,000 offering from a September meeting.

Meghan prepares tacos for homeless families staying at a local church in October 2017.
(Photo provided by Nancy Steel)

Meghan does not limit herself, or her family, to a one-night-a-year commitment. She recently included her mother, brother and others from her church in feeding homeless families that were staying with a local Baptist church. She helps her Sunday school prepare bag lunches that are distributed to women and children that attend the Women, Infants & Children (WIC) clinic held monthly at Belmar; walks with the CROP Walk; and performs Minutes for Mission around Belmar’s hunger ministry program. Many credit her for bringing homelessness and hunger issues to the congregation’s attention.

“She motivates so many people through her experience and her love, and she just has such a big heart,” said Nancy Steel, a member at First Presbyterian Church Belmar. “If it were not for Meghan we would not have been at the Cardboard Box City events or Family Promise. She is definitely an advocate for the homeless and the hungry.”

“First Presbyterian Church of Belmar is one of the 72 congregations recognized this year in a brand-new initiative called Hunger Action Congregations. Because of its thorough approach to hunger ministry, FPC Belmar is one of the 35 congregations that were Certified Hunger Action Congregations, because of a higher level and deeper commitment to working in a multiple-prong approach including education, outreach, worship, service and more,” explains Rebecca Barnes, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “We are delighted to recognize and walk alongside churches making a difference in their community, and to celebrate creative, inspiring, local initiatives supported by Presbyterians like Meghan DeLuca.”

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Meghan giving the Minute for Mission about Cardboard Box City to Monmouth Presbytery on Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo provided by Rev. Bill Morris)

First Presbyterian Church Belmar, located in Belmar, New Jersey, was founded in 1877 in what was then called Ocean Beach, New Jersey. It collects a Cents-Ability offering, participates annually in the Church World Services CROP Walk, the Souper Bowl of Caring, and is a Family Promise of Monmouth County Support Congregation partnering with host congregations to house and feed homeless people. They participate in World Food Day and the Food Week of Action, and donate to the One Great Hour of Sharing.

Congregations or individuals interested in joining others across the U.S. to highlight the challenge of homelessness can participate in National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week. Held each year the week before Thanksgiving (Nov. 11–19, 2017), this event is an opportunity to change the conversation about stereotypes and policy regarding the homeless and hungry population. Visit www.hhweek.org for more information about events near you or to download an organizing manual.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program also offers worship resources for Hunger and Homelessness Sunday, Nov. 19, including a bulletin insert, children’s sermon and prayer, and more here.


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