By: Baileigh Payne, SweetWater Marketing Team
While it sometimes seems that hope is hard to come by, Cynthia Hart (owner of Cyn Shea’s and Serving Hope in Huntsville) is serving up hope by preparing daily meals for children throughout Northern Alabama.
After 25 years of business, Cynthia was looking ahead towards retirement when she was called to serve her community in a new way. When the Boys and Girls Clubs of Northern Alabama president, Patrick Wynn, approached Cynthia suggesting she should bid on a federal contract to prepare 900 meals a day for children in the community, she thought he was crazy. How could she handle such a large contract right before retirement? However, as Cynthia turned to walk back into the kitchen, she knew God was calling her to help and would provide. After spending the summer observing the meals provided at the Boys and Girls Club, Cynthia knew this was her opportunity to make a difference and positively impact the lives of thousands.
In the state of Alabama, around 251,800 children struggle with hunger. According to the Food Bank of North America, 60,000 of those children live right here in Northern Alabama. While the program is mostly funded through a federal contract, it would not be possible without the help of volunteers and donations. With the local farmers, grocers, and lots of research by her side, Cynthia has been able to improve the nutritional value, while providing new and fun meal options for the children of Northern Alabama.
While a lot has changed since October when the contract began, Cyn Shea’s has not slowed down, but ramped up. The team currently meets six days a week to cook, package and pack food for deliveries across 6 counties. What began as a contract of 900 meals a day has risen to over 3,400 meals a day due to schools closing in March because of the COVID-19 crisis. Cynthia explains, “When the pandemic happened, our system evolved into a small factory run by both employees and volunteers.” At the beginning of each month, Cynthia prepares a 30-day menu. Since the pandemic, the number of children increases almost daily, leaving Cynthia unsure of the number of meals needed the next day! Yet, Cynthia and her team rise to each challenge and continue to provide meals through the Boys and Girls Club and community. While preparing 3,400+ meals a day is no easy task, Cynthia’s team is ready to go every day with a smile in their heart.
“It felt like a glimpse of heaven,” Rachel Wilton, a volunteer, described when she looked around at the diversity of people that come together every day to serve and make this possible. It’s an example of how people of all different backgrounds are working together to make a change in the community.
“It felt like a glimpse of heaven.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, decisions had to be made on how to proceed with the 25-year old catering business, the cafe, and the food program. When asked, Cynthia said, “In the beginning, we were torn with the decision to serve our guests by providing curbside or help those in need, and we chose to help the children.”
When asked about donations, Cynthia said their primary need right now is to restock their shelf-stable meal packages. Their supply has been drastically reduced as the number of children continues to grow. Volunteers and donations are also needed now more than ever. Donations can be sent to 415 Church Street, Suite E-5, Huntsville AL 35801. To volunteer, please contact Cyn Shea’s at 256-532-5282.