​When Marissa Bressler arrived at York College her freshman year, she had one goal. She wanted to avoid speaking in front of large crowds. “I didn’t even make it through my first week,” she joked, as she made a chapel announcement. While the native of Lake Benton, Minnesota, might have failed at her initial goal, she said doing so has helped her thrive. Fast forward two years. Not only does the junior biology major speak in public, she’s the student body president. These days, her mission is a bit different. “My goal is to cultivate a culture of service on campus. I feel like the college has been successful in the ‘transforming’ and ‘equipping’ part of its mission, but the service aspect was lacking.”

“I’m really proud of Marissa,” said Meghan Shruck, the associate dean of students, who, along with Dean of Students Catherine Seufferlein, is the student government co-sponsor. “Ever since she was elected, she’s been thinking about how to bring back a spirit of service to campus. It’s exciting to see the students getting involved in all kinds of projects under Marissa’s leadership.”
Seufferlein and Shruck are not only co-sponsors of the student organization; they are both members of East Hill Church of Christ, located just a block from campus. The congregation had also been considering more ways to deepen the impact they were making in the community. They host a massive, free clothing drive two times a year and many members volunteer at Living Water Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter on the north side of town. Yet, they believed there was more that could be done to serve neighbors in York and the surrounding communities. Folks at the Food Bank of Lincoln agreed.

“We had been looking to start a mobile food distribution in York County,” said Mary Arter, Food Bank of Lincoln Agency Relations Coordinator. “It’s one of the counties in our 16-county service area where we wanted to boost our feeding activity.”

According to Feeding America’s most recent Map the Meal Gap report, 11 percent of residents in York County are food insecure. That means approximately 1,520 people in that county lack consistent and reliable access to enough food to live an active and healthy lifestyle. “Finding the right partner isn’t always easy. We have obligations to uphold as a Feeding America network organization, and we have high expectations of our partners to treat clients with dignity and compassion. It has to be a great fit. We believe we’ve found that with East Hill Church of Christ and York College.”

That connection was made when York resident and Food Bank employee Marcia Schlegelmilch began making calls. “I was very well acquainted with the mission-oriented and welcoming nature of York College and East Hill Church of Christ. This partnership began with a simple telephone call to a former preschool student of mine, now Director of Financial Aid at York College, Brien Alley. He put me in contact with Catherine Seufferlein, who became our contact at the school.
“The timing was right,” said Seufferlein. “It really all came together because of everyone’s willingness to make it work. The partnership with the college, the church and the Food Bank allows all of us to work together to help meet a basic need.”
The first distribution at East Hill Church of Christ was in September. A little more than 40 individuals were served. The number increased to more than 70 in October, and this month, the number hovered right under 70. The monthly distribution occurs on the first Friday of each month, from Noon to 1 p.m., and anyone who may need a bit of food support is welcome. “There are a host of reasons a person may come through the food line,” said Sheila Tandy, a member of East Hill Church of Christ and food distribution volunteer. “We don’t need to know the reasons. We are simply here to help.”
Bressler agrees. “Real service allows you to see people’s humanity, whether you are receiving food or helping distribute it. Food is a basic need. It’s rewarding to see people working together to help meet that need.”

By Michaella Kumke
Director of Communication
Lincoln Food Bank