Written by Marcia Bentley
The King James Version of the bible, Matthew 7:7 states, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” In early June of 2012, a 12- year old young man lived this bible verse when he knocked on the Powell Subdivision’s, Neighborhood watch chairperson’s front door. He knocked, and he asked with these words, “Ms. Pelham I’m hungry; can you help us get some food?” Ms. Sandra Price Pelham, retired Social Worker, answered the knock by gathering food for the child, his mother and 8 siblings. The story does not end here; two weeks later, a different child from a different family knocked, asked and the knock was answered.
Because of these encounters, Sandra Pelham organized a community outreach program designed to feed children, as well as, provide them with reading material during the summer months. This program is called “The Community Read and Feed Program” (CRFP) and was first housed at the Destiny Life Center Church. Destiny Life Center Church members, and members of Sandra’s beloved sisterhood, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, volunteered with the program. Each year, local churches joined the partnership. Eight years later, the partnership has grown to include Destiny Life Center Church (Pastor Tanya Greene), Florida Avenue Church of Christ (Pastor Alvin McCoy and Associate Pastor Melvin Neal), Scott Chapel United Methodist Church (Pastor Dale Haynes), Allen Chapel A.M.E. Church (Pastor Lorenzo Laws) and Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church (Pastor Quintin Woods).
In 2017, the Palm Bay Florida Police Department developed a program focusing on assisting youth with being model citizens and on allocating funds seized from drugs and illegal activities, into programs for children. This year, the Palm Bay Florida Police Department partnered with the Melbourne Police Department, and together they have provided funds, interacted with the youth, as well as, provided and distributed food packages to the youth.
Truly, the Community Read and Feed Program has been a blessing to more than 800 children in the community. Due to COVID 19, on Saturday, August 8, 2020 the program culminated with a special, drive through a celebration held at the Evans Center in Palm Bay, FL. Each child received a meal package to take home, a bag of snacks, a sanitizer pack and an abundance of school supplies.
The Sewell-Flower Family has been a part of this program since CRFP’s inception and continuously extends a heartfelt thank you for the outpour of love, the multitude of books from The United Way and “Ms. Dot’s good cooking, especially her smothered Salisbury steak, green beans, warm rolls and creamy macaroni and cheese.” Ms. Sewell is a single parent, mother of 6 children which includes a set of Triplets: Dejah, Charles, and Ashlee Flowers. These honor students, class of 2020, graduated from Palm Bay High Schools and have been accepted to their colleges of choice.
During the special, drive through ceremony, Ms. Pelham saw it fitting to have Dejah, Charles, and Ashlee Flowers recognized and shown appreciation. The triplets were adorned in their graduation caps and gowns and stood before 35, socially distanced, onlookers as Ms. Pelham spoke. She shared stories about their 8 years of participation in the program and watching them grow academically. She discreetly gave each of them an envelope with a love token in it as she expressed joy that CRFP made a difference in their lives. The recognition continued with Palm Bay Police Deputy Chief Mario Augello and Melbourne Police Chief David Gillespie congratulating the triplets on being outstanding scholars and upstanding citizens; they also provided words of encouragement for their future endeavors. Mr. Michael A. Cadore, Associate Provost of Eastern Florida State College (EFSC), gave words of encouragement, offered financial assistance to be used at EFSC and prayed an effectual fervent prayer over their lives. Ms. Sandra Pelham concluded by thanking every person who played a role in making this 8-year program a success.
Ms. Pelham would like to thank the Lord and all of the volunteers that participated in the program over the 8 years. She acknowledges the CFRP wouldn’t be the impactful program it is today without a village, an entire community of volunteers, churches, policemen, and parents working together so children can thrive with a full stomach in a healthy and safe environment.