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Speak to my Heart
Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life.

Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture

Interview with Mrs. Sandra McCane,
Israel CME Church

Feed My Sheep Ministry
March 18, 1997

Photo of Mrs. McCane
". . .We decided to name the ministry the Feed My Sheep Ministry because we know that's what Jesus wanted us to do. Go out and feed his sheep. . ."

MS. MORRIS: Are you from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area?
MS. MCCANE: Yes, I am. I m a native Washingtonian.
MS. MORRIS: How long have you been a member of Israel Metropolitan Church?
MS. MCCANE: Basically, I guess, you could say I was born into the church. My parents were members and they d been bringing me to Israel basically since I was a baby. I officially joined when I was nine years old.
MS. MORRIS: Do you have any positions in the church?
MS. MCCANE: Yes, I do. I am a member of the Missionary Society, the Women s Missionary Society. I m a member and secretary of the Rebecca U. _____ Altar Guild. And, I m also a member of Stewardess Board Number Two. And, a member of the Sunday school. And, right now, I am the instructor of the Thursday night bible study and I m in charge of the Thursday night prayer service.
MS. MORRIS: Could you tell me about the Feed My Sheep Ministry?
MS. MCCANE: Yes, I can. It was something that I had seen a need for for a very, very long time. And, it was something that I felt Israel Metropolitan CME Church should be involved in for a very long time. It seems as though whenever we would bring the issue up that it was tabled for one reason or another. It seems that we just could not get it off the ground. And...[tape interrupted]...we had a missionary meeting the last week in January and, well, backtracking a bit, we had a women s day prayer breakfast and the guest speaker sort of threw out a challenge to the women of Israel to go beyond the confines of this building and start a reach out program to get involved with persons in our community as well as persons that are in our city in a feeding ministry. And, it really touched me because this is something I had been wanting to do, so she challenged us for the following Sunday to bring, each one of us to bring, bag lunches to church and go out after church, just right around our community and over to Georgia Avenue and feed some homeless people. And, I accepted the challenge and I did that for several Sundays in a row. And, then I came back to the missionary meeting, I told them what I had been doing and I told them I really felt that, well, I knew there was a need for us to do a little bit more than what we were doing, so I brought the issue up about feeding the homeless again and they tossed it around and sort of tabled it again. So, I really felt sort of badly about it, so I went back home and I just started praying over it and I prayed all week about it, and Saturday morning I was awakened, this voice just told me, you go do it. And, I thought at first my husband was saying something to me and I realized he was still asleep. And, I just set up straight in the bed and I said that had to be the voice of God speaking to me, telling me not to put it off any longer, but to go ahead and get the program started. So, later on that morning, I came down to the church and I discussed it with Pastor Owens and he told me he thought it was exactly what we ought to be doing. And, he told me to go ahead and get plans together and get back to him with when I want to start it. He said that it would be no problem with the church using benevolence money and I just take it from there, whatever I wanted to do, just get back to him and let him know what our plans were. So, immediately, I thought of about four or five missionary ladies who I felt would be immediately ready to get started with the program and I contacted all of them that same day. And, they all said they were really anxious to get it started. And, the following week was the first Saturday in February, that was when we decided that we were going to get started. And, as it was, it snowed that Saturday. And, I got on the telephone and I called my pastor and I asked him, you know, whether he think we should go on with our plans or not. And, he said, he thought that if I could get out of my community, that it shouldn t be no problem. So, I called the other four or five ladies and they were ready. One lady said she already cleaned her car. And, the other two said they did not drive, but if I picked them up, they would definitely come down and help out. So, that s what I did. We came down to the church and we distributed flyers in the neighborhood, and we came back in and started preparing the lunches. We decided we were going to have hot soup and bag lunches. And, one of the ladies made a big pot of homemade soup. And, we put a sign outside our church. But, I guess, because of the weather, there were not that many people on the street. So, we waited, I guess, for about an hour, and two or three people came by, and we fed them. Because our plan was to have them come into the fellowship hall and feed them there. So, we waited, I guess, about another and finally one of the neighbors came over, he saw the sign. He asked how many people had been in, you know, to be fed. And, we told him maybe five or six. And, he said, well, do you know where the homeless are? And, I thought about it for a minute. He said, you know, the homeless are in the street. He said, this is a perfect day to go out to feed. So, he said, as a matter of fact, if you like, he has a van, and he helped us pack all the food up and the soup in the van. We went downtown. We started down on Seventh Street, and we saw people out on the street and we stopped the van and we got out and we fed them. And, we went from there down on Constitution Avenue and we fed people there and we ended up in Lafayette Square. And, that s where we fed the majority of the people. They just seemed to have come out of the rest rooms. They were wrapped up in blankets on the park benches. And, I guess we probably fed about thirty-five homeless persons on that day. And, there were so many that we had to turn some of them down, didn t have enough food for them. So, we were just so impressed and overwhelmed with the thanks that we received from these persons to come out on a cold snowy day and sort of take care of their needs. But, we came back to church and we prepared lunches for approximately fifty more people. And, the following Sunday after church we went back down to Lafayette Square and we fed them again. So, that was the beginning of the ministry. We decided that we were going to name the ministry the Feed My Sheep Ministry because we know that s what Jesus wanted us to do. Go out and feed his sheep. So, we adopted our name from the scripture and we decided that we would go out twice a month on the first Saturday and the third Saturday. And, from that time, we have asked for volunteers to help us, and we have approximately anywhere from fifteen to twenty persons that come, not all on the same Saturday, but they come when they can. Most of the time, we have about five or six that will go out with us, come and prepare food and then go out with us on Saturday. But, we were able to get in contact, by way of one of our members, with an organization called Noah s Ark. And, it s on North Capitol and P Street. And, we found out that they give away bread every Saturday morning, and we had a need for bread because we normally make two sandwiches for each person. And, we are up to feeding over a hundred people each time we go out as of this day. And, we got in touch with Noah s Ark and this is our first stop on the Saturday mornings that we go out. We go down there. We have, it s connected with the church, and we have prayer service on the side walk on P Street. There s approximately twenty-five or thirty people down there every Saturday. And, after we have prayer service for the homeless and for those in need in Washington, D.C., then we let them know how much bread we feel we need and the bread is distributed to people who are in need, they are there also, and then through non-profit organizations, such as our church and other churches pick up bread. So, what we normally do is we have enough bread to distribute within our church community as well as make sandwiches for the people that we go out to feed. And, we were also able to contact the American Red Cross and one or two other organizations that donated blankets, outdoor blankets, for the homeless. We also got some blankets from Noah s Ark, as well. And, during the winter months, whenever we would go out, if the homeless did not have blankets, we would distribute blankets also. They were nice, heavy, doorway[?} blankets. So, we did that also. And, after the first couple of months, we also combined our feeding with trying to clothe those who were in need of clothing.

We ask for donations, we received clothing from men as well as clothing for women. And, when we would go out, we would have them come to the church bus. That was another thing we did, to request the use of the church bus. In the beginning, we would go out in individual cars, four or five individual cars. But, it was sort of cumbersome, trying to go from one car, some things would be in one car and some things would be in another one. When we got the use of the church bus, we could put everything on the bus and everyone could ride together on the bus to go out to feed, so we started taking clothing and we found an enormous need for clothing for those people.

Feed My Sheep ministry conducts a prayer circle before distributing food and clothing to the homeless in Washington, D.C.

And, we also took toilet articles. There were some members of the church that donated soap and toothpaste, tooth brushes, deodorant, powder, shampoo, wash cloths, and we also distributed those. So, we have gotten to the point now where we have developed some beautiful relationships with these persons that we feed because they trust us and they are just so thankful for what we are doing for them and we look forward to seeing them whenever we go. Matter of fact, if some of them are not there, we miss them and we ask about them. But, we also decided that, not only would we feed them physically, we would feed them spiritually. So, now, whenever we go, we form a circle on the side walk and one of us in the group or one of the persons on the street will have prayer before we feed them. And, we also find out if there are any other needs that they have, other than food and clothing. We try to direct them to the proper authorities or places to go, you know, to get assistance.

So, this, basically, is what we do. We are very, very excited about it. We have persons that also donate monies to us, and that helps us a lot. About a month ago, we were able to give out brand new underclothing, underwear and socks. So, it s really been uplifting to our group to be involved in this ministry. It really has. And, we re hoping that it will grow to the point where we will have enough persons volunteering their services to go out every week, every Saturday. Because we know the homeless are not hungry every other week. They are hungry every other day of the week. And, we feel that, if we can grow to that point, it will be a blessing to them as well as to us.

MS. MORRIS: So, how old is the Feed My Sheep Ministry?
MS. MCCANE: The Feed My Sheep Ministry started officially February fourth, nineteen ninety-five.
MS. MORRIS: How does the Feed My Sheep Ministry differ from other feeding ministries, in your opinion?
MS. MCCANE: I feel that the difference, because of our relationship with the persons whom we feed. We don t just go down and just feed them and leave them. We administer to their spiritual needs, as I said, by praying for them and talking with them and find out what their needs are other than just for clothing and for food. And, I feel a lot of times that people who are without feel that other persons are just giving them what s left over. And, I think, by us developing this relationship, we have bought them new items to wear and we also give them New Testaments. We give them tracks to read. And, they really feel that they have developed a bond with us. And, up to this point, about a month ago, our pastor went out with us, and he personally got involved with the persons that we feed and he went back that Monday and that Tuesday, and administered to them, and starting that Wednesday, he sent the church bus out and brought approximately ten to twelve of the men from the V Street shelter back to Israel for our bible study. And, they were fed at that time also. And, the following Sunday, one of the homeless persons came to church. And, since that time, I believe it was last Thursday night, one of them accepted membership here to Israel. And, this past Sunday, we had four of the men from the shelter to worship with us. So, we can see that it s just a blessing if you just have one or two, if you can reach one or two. Because, these persons are very talented. They have a lot of talents that they can offer. One of the men from the shelter did a beautiful sketch of our pastor. And, one of the members framed it and he presented it at church two Sundays ago, and the pastor said he s going to hang it in his office. But, he s very artistic, very artistic. And, the same day that he attended church, we had started another program for employment in our church through one of our members. It s a project dealing with long-distance telephone service, a new long-distance telephone service. So, several of those men have been invited to come and take part in that as an employment opportunity. So, this is why I feel that our program is a bit different from some others that I know of because of our personal relationship and personal contacts with the people that we serve.
MS. MORRIS: OK. Could you tell me some of the challenges that the Feed My Sheep Ministry faces?
MS. MCCANE: Well, I guess that we really probably would like to have some fundraising activities so that we can expand our ministry and we also, as I said, I feel like it s a challenge to get more people to volunteer so that we can go out more than twice a month. So, that, to me, was a challenge.
MS. MORRIS: Personally, how do you handle the teaching profession and then being a coordinator of this ministry?
MS. MCCANE: A lot of people ask me that same question. It, it s not easy. It really isn t easy. But, it takes commitment. You know, once you commit yourself to do something of this nature, you just have to make the time and the sacrifice to do it. And, if it s something that close to your heart and you develop a love for it, you just find the time to do it. I really have so much to do sometime I get overwhelmed with it. But, it s not the type of thing that I want to put on hold no matter what s going on. As a matter of fact, I was out of town week before last and my husband wanted us to stay over through Columbus Day, Monday. And, I told him, I said, no, I ve got to be back on Saturday because Saturday s the day I feed my people. And, I think he understood my commitment at that point, you know, for me to cut trip short by three days to come back home to be here to feed my sheep.
MS. MORRIS: In closing, what do you see as the church s role in confronting the homeless problem?
MS. MCCANE: Well, I think we are moving in the right direction by going out and bringing the homeless persons into our church and feeding them and administering to their spiritual needs as well as clothing and trying to open up some employment opportunities to them. So, I think that this little light is just shining more and more every day. It was just a spark in the beginning, and now we can see it just beginning to glow more and more because the more we get involved, the more things we are able to do to help those persons who are living on the streets. So, I feel that, in the months to come, that we will be able to do even more for them.
MS. MORRIS: Thank you very...[tape interrupted]
MS. MCCANE: ...the ministry has really made a difference in my life because I ve always been a person that, I just love people. And, I guess I m just a humanitarian person. I just love to be involved with people and to help people in any way that I can. And, this will just fulfill some of my hopes and some of dreams of something I d just like to do personally for mankind.
MS. MORRIS: So, when you were younger in the church, were you involved in things like this also?
MS. MCCANE: Well, I ve been involved with activities that deal with people and..
MS. MORRIS: But, not a feeding program.
MS. MCCANE: Not a feeding program, no. This is a first time I ve been involved in a feeding program. Well, I can t say the first time, because I did volunteer some years ago down to Martha s Table. I would volunteer down there from time to time, but it was not on a consistent basis. So, I just feel that, well, at that particular time, I had a young child, and when you have young children, you have to sort of rearrange your schedules because your children do come first. But, now that my son is grown, I have more time to do some things that I was not able to do when he was growing up.
MS. MORRIS: Anything else you d like to add in closing?
MS. MCCANE: Well, I guess I ve said about, you know, all that I can think of concerning the ministry. And, I appreciate this interview. And, I thank you for asking me.
MS. MORRIS: You re welcome. Thank you.
MS. MORRIS: That was Jennifer Morris, MORRIS, interviewing Mrs. Sandra McCane of Israel Metropolitan CME Church about the Feed My Sheep program.

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