In her years-long fight against childhood hunger in Broward County, Rev. Peytyn Tobin, an associate pastor at New Horizon UMC, has experienced her share of sadness and discouragement.
She oversees children, youth and family ministry at New Horizon; and the big picture alone—roughly 80,000 Broward children living with food insecurity—can be overwhelming, but Tobin refuses to give up hope.
“I tend to live by the theory that it’s not about the many, it’s about the one,” she said. “What one did I touch today? … It keeps you focused on inching forward, one child at a time.”
Since launching in 2009 with the goal of feeding 10 students, Pack-a-Sack has made huge strides and now serves 200 children across 11 Broward County public schools.
That progress, along with Tobin’s steadfast commitment, recently caught the attention of HandsOn Broward, which presented her with its 2018 Changemaker Award at the nonprofit’s annual Youth Impact Awards in early May.
“For the first time in my life, I can honestly say I was completely speechless,” she said. “It was an awesome feeling that others had seen the things we had been doing. … Just seeing God work, seeing God just do big, amazing, audacious things—it encourages me.”
Not only does Pack-a-Sack provide children with sacks of food to cover three meals and two snacks on the weekends, the ministry’s volunteers are in those same schools building relationships with students, teachers and administrators.
“A lot of these kids may or may not know that they are valued, that they are loved or the potential they have within them,” said Tobin, who works with local high school students on goal setting and leadership.
|Cindy Wandsworth and Rev. Peytyn Tobin|
“Our actions can show them that. … Being in the schools and being present and having administrators know you are there solely because you care shares the gospel in way that I think Christ would have.”
Tobin also sees Pack-a-Sack as a Fresh Expression because the majority of volunteers sorting, packing and delivering food aren’t New Horizon members.
Some are high school students looking for community service hours while others are adults with connections to civic groups such as Rotary and Kiwanis. They all take ownership of the ministry and share meals together on volunteer days.
“This is a place where they are comfortable, and it’s their home,” she said. “I’ve heard them say that. … It’s just been this organic thing that grows from a place of commonality.”
Tobin said she’s especially excited that the HandsOn Broward award is raising awareness of Pack-a-Sack and the issue of child hunger. Though she has plans to make Pack-a-Sack a nonprofit of its own, she said the organization will stay true to its initial mission.
“We live the gospel,” she said. “We live out that love, and we make sure everyone knows—from the boxes that go out to the people who are serving, that they are loved, they are valued and they are cherished.”
—Kari Barlow is a freelance writer based in Pensacola.