Pandemic restrictions are making life more challenging for everyone, especially for those whose lives weren’t easy in the first place. Just recently, the Cleveland Public Library canceled its plan to provide children’s meals. Among those who’ve had to make serious adjustments to what they can offer during the pandemic is Manna Food From Heaven.
Hot meals made from scratch — that’s the specialty fare offered by Manna Food From Heaven Ministries. Started by Deacon Melvin E. Hodge, Jr., in 1999, Manna Food is a 501c(3) non-profit organization–men and women from various churches, denominations, and pastors.
Each month, Deacon Hodge says, they feed between “5,000-8,000 men, women, and children in the greater Cleveland area, with summer cookouts, and over 200 Christmas gifts donated as well.”.
Volunteers prepare hot from-scratch meals: chicken, green beans with white potatoes, fresh collard greens, fresh steamed cabbage, corn on the cob, candied yams, pasta with beef, cornbread, peach cobbler, and manna pudding. These delicious meals are then served — complete with a side order of love — at area shelters and delivered to people on the streets. Each meal, Hodge explains, is made with care: “If I was at home, this is what I would want. I put a lot of love and attention into these meals, to give people something that they are going to enjoy.”
And enjoy they do.
A few years ago, when the Manna volunteers made the traditional turkey dinner for Thanksgiving, one of their guests told Deacon Hodge that while they could have such a turkey dinner in a number of places, they “truly look forward” to Manna’s usual chicken meal because they “can feel the love in it.”’
Manna Food from Heaven is clearly a name that aptly describes what Deacon Hodge and his rotating crew of volunteers set out to provide each month. The biblical reference means an unexpected benefit or assistance, especially when it comes at the time it is needed most. “The name came to me while I was dealing with a difference of opinion within my church. It came to me in a dream, and it just stuck,” says Deacon Hodge.
The group runs solely on donations and grants, and Deacon Hodge credits their success to the donations the organization receives and the volunteers who show up to serve.
In February, 2018, for instance, the Word Church surprised them with a new van. The van gets daily use, ensuring that volunteers can get food to all those who need it. “The van we had at the time was on its last leg,” Deacon Hodge explains, “and the gift of this new van was a true blessing.”
Another generous and useful donation came from the Bates family in December, 2019. Manna Food cooks everything they serve at the Emergency Men’s shelter located at 2100 Lakeside. When the stove at the shelter died, Manna Food reached out through Facebook to ask for help and support to raise funds for a new stove. The Bates family, church friends of Deacon Hodge for nearly fifty years, responded by donating all the funds needed in Mr. John Bates’ name.
Because of the restrictions forced upon Manna Food by the coronavirus pandemic, Deacon Hodge can’t allow you to volunteer for the time being. At least for now, though, he himself is still providing meals to others, outside. As the Deacon’s wife says, “Melvin simply can’t quit; he loves it too much.”
And you can help. Make a donation, and learn how to volunteer when restrictions are lifted, by visiting Manna Food from Heaven.