Cheri Honderd, Founder and Executive Director
In 2008, while serving as the Director of Kids Hope USA, a program that focuses on matching at-risk students from a local elementary school in Jenison, Michigan with adult mentors from her church, Fair Haven Church, Cheri Honderd learned of a community injustice — elementary school kids were going hungry.
While she often encountered challenges with children who were being mentored, hunger was not one of them. But times were tough.
The community, as well as the nation, was going through a recession. For the first time in decades, the city of Jenison, along with neighboring communities, faced a hunger crisis. Many former middle-income families were not able to feed their own children. The number of free or reduced lunch participants in one school district went from 5 to 30 percent in one year.
When Cheri learned that these school children were hungry, it brought back memories of her own childhood where her parents struggled for employment.
“The church played an important role in my life as a child. Despite her long work hours, my mom always took us to church on Sunday. The love and light of Jesus our church brought into my life gave me hope and peace. I am forever grateful for this church that reached out to us — supporting, encouraging, loving, and blessing us. It brought a sense of stability to my life,” said Cheri. “I wanted that love and support to translate to our local communities.”
As a dedicated follower of Christ, Cheri turned to God for direction of how to help these hungry school children. “I began praying about how God could use our church to fight this injustice. I knew that God called us to feed the poor and to be the hands and feet of Jesus. I also knew there was enough food in America and that we just needed to find a way we could directly put the food into the hands of children.”
She also sounded the alarm at Fair Haven Church in Hudsonville, Michigan. Members of the church responded with great enthusiasm that they desired to help combat childhood hunger. Cheri also worked directly with the Principal of the school as they discerned together how children could be fed. Shortly after, Hand2Hand was founded. Hand2Hand has not only provided for the physical needs of hunger, it has also provided a sense of joy and relief as children can rely on the food to appear in their lockers every week.
Despite the program’s simplicity, a small backpack filled with supplemental food for school children, to bridge the gap of weekend hunger, the program nourishes more than just the physical. It provides consistency, love, and demonstrates to all within a home that people do care. That, ultimately, God cares.
Other churches began hearing about Hand2Hand and it's impact and began partnering to feed children in their neighborhoods. God grew a program of 19 students to feeding thousands of children as leaders and volunteers of other churches joined in the fight against childhood hunger.
Hand2Hand was founded on prayer and it remains a primary component of the operation of Hand2Hand with all of the partnering churches. It is founded on the verse from Psalms 145:16, “For You open Your hand and provide for the desires of every living thing.” Our prayer is that the children will realize the food comes from God Himself because He is ultimately the One who is providing it...we are simply His hands and feet.