Disciples News Service

Missouri church provides milk for vulnerable students

For nearly 20 years, Ozark Christian Church, in Ozark, MO, has focused on improving health in their community in a unique way: one carton of milk at a time.

Through their “Operation Half Pint” project, Ozark’s outreach committee raises money for the local school district to provide milk for young students. In their school system, students in kindergarten through fourth grade can have a carton of milk at snack time, but only if they can afford to purchase it.

A teacher on Ozark’s outreach committee knew that the disparity between the students who could afford milk and those who couldn’t was two-fold: the kids who didn’t have the extra milk money wouldn’t get the additional milk’s nutrients, and they may be embarrassed by their situation. Ozark knew that the Free and Reduced Lunch Program at the schools wasn’t covering this additional snack time, so there was nowhere else for these students to turn.

So, in 1999, the church collaborated with civic organizations and other local churches to raise money to supplement the cost of milk for growing students. At first, the program benefited one school, with $100 per month. Over time, this group of local organizations was raising up to $18,000 a year to fund Operation Half Pint.

Fast forward to 2017, and community and school funding has dropped significantly. The momentum from partnering organizations in the community slowed, and several groups stopped supporting the project over time. The school district faced its own budget constraints and changes. Operation Half Pint was in jeopardy.

Once again, Ozark Christian Church answered God’s call.

The church’s board decided to renew their commitment to the program, and work to supplement the funding that was no longer coming from other organizations. Shane Strahl, vice chairman of the church board, suggested that their upcoming Fall Family Festival serve as a fundraiser for Operation Half Pint. They later learned that the school district’s funding for the program had been cut, making their spontaneous decision to raise additional funds even more timely.

“Due to our long-standing connection to this worthy cause in our community,” Strahl said, “I am very excited that our church continues to take a leadership role in making sure students get the milk they need to grow and succeed.”

Ozark Christian ended up raising over $4,500 to help support funding for students that can’t afford milk, going “beyond expectations,” according to the church’s pastor, Rev. Dr. Tommy Goode.

“I am very pleased that OCC hosts this annual event to provide a fun day for families in our community,” says Goode, “and for the added blessing of helping provide resources for the Half Pint Project in cooperation with Ozark Public Schools.”