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Network puts food on tables, spreads gospel

March 20, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Larry Key told a story to illustrate the mission of his non-profit Calexico-based Children's Christian Hunger Network.

In Mexicali's Santa Niños colonia, Key and other members of his organization were providing food to local children and their families during a weekend event.

On various Saturdays throughout the year, the network throws day-long celebrations combining ministry, puppet shows and games for kids and food distribution for the needy.

One of the women in the crowd stepped toward the microphone.

"She said she had been a prostitute, selling herself for money to buy her children food," Key remembered.

After attending a few of the weekend events to receive food from the network, Key said the woman "had an experience with the gospel."

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With her pantry full, the woman found a job. She got back on her feet.

"She no longer needed to prostitute herself," Key said.

That's what the food achieved, he said.

Later two more women came forward and said they had been helped in similar fashions.

"That's our mission — to provide healing to the whole family," he said.

Key's organization was founded in St. Louis in 1984.

A former pastor at a charismatic interdenominational church, Key combined his passion for spreading the Word with a philanthropic quest to eradicate hunger.

He moved his base of operations to the Phoenix area in 1993 before coming to Calexico in the mid-1990s. Key recently set up shop in a new Rockwood Avenue office downtown.

He chose to focus on children because "they're the innocents."

The network operates five feeding centers/parish halls in Mexico, most in Mexicali.

In addition, the network partners with different organizations such as the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Children's Corrective Surgery Society and Feed My People International.

The network is supported by donations of food from major Arizona supermarket chains and individuals.

Key said he runs a tight ship and makes sure all the non-profits' books are open and disclosed. He is especially proud of the low overhead of the group.

One of the network's coordinators, Miguel Montaña, said only 2.18 percent of the network's expenditures went to overhead.

Key said his organization and faith cannot be grouped with any one denomination. He said his aim is capsulized by a quote from a Hindu, Mahatma Ghandi. Rifling through papers on his desk, Key found the quote he was looking for.

"I read this to my guys today, ‘There are some people in this world that are so hungry that God could not appear to them except in the form of bread,' " Key read.

In addition to food, the network runs a Christmas toy drive that distributed 12,000 toys last year. Depending on the circumstances, the network will help build homes or churches or whatever else is needed.

While at some point someone from the network will probably share the word with those it is helping, Key said, "You don't have to be a part. That really doesn't matter. Those that want to come back (to church), they can."

Asked if it's possible to eradicate hunger, Key chewed on the question awhile and said, "I think there are enough resources. You know how much food is thrown away every day?"

Getting those resources to all those who need it is the hard part.

Key said hunger will never be eradicated totally because of "man's greed."

"You know how it is. Sometimes food will be delivered there and it never gets delivered," he said.

Asked if people take advantage of the program, Key said, "Sometimes, but you have to go through that to help the ones who really need the help. It's a small price to pay."

Recently the network has partnered with Feed My People International to help feed 1,000 Filipino children in Lamitan, Basilan Province.

To donate to the cause, call the network at 357-2307.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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