It began as a simple project and quickly got out of hand. I am referring to the “2011 – Facebook Veterans’ Christmas Project.” The goal was to raise money to buy 150 five-dollar McDonald’s gift cards to be distributed to veterans through the Marion VA Hospital.
The project was birthed when I took a friend with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease to the Marion VA Hospital. In no time I felt like I had been dropped into the middle of a field hospital for the forgotten and abandoned.
A group of more than 15 patients standing outside the hospital entrance showed many forms of stress and struggle. Going inside I saw much of the same. My friend was in and out quite quickly that day, but the first impression never left me. Ten days later, I returned to the hospital on my own to see if my heart had deceived me. Unfortunately, it hadn’t.
I visited the chaplain in his office, following which we met in the middle of a long corridor. I said I wanted to help support and thank the veterans I had seen. He led me to Voluntary Service where I was given a list of many items they would like to receive.
I was immediately drawn to the McDonald’s gift cards. I thought, “Who wouldn’t like one?” Plus, they are very accessible. It was during the 45-minute ride home that this outreach ministry came together.
I didn’t want to stress the churches I serve, so I tried the project on Facebook. After reaching the 500 card mark, I brought the churches on board. We set the original goal of 150 five-dollar McDonald’s Restaurant gift cards for September. By the end of October, we were already above 300 cards. By the end of November, we had eclipsed to 1,200 cards.
The project ended December 12. We had received more than 2,000 McDonald’s gift cards. They came from 16 states and Canada. We had received cash, checks and cards. Four days before Christmas, we delivered the cards to the Marion VA Hospital and were able to personally hand out 50 cards. The rest would be given to homeless veterans, those in counseling, those in support groups and some with travel reimbursements.
Many of the cards and donations were given in honor or memory of a loved one who was a veteran. We also received cards in honor or memory of those who had been in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
The project provided 2,000 meals for some real heroes. The project also was a reminder to those who believed they had been forgotten, hadn’t been forgotten at all.
Hamburger in Jesus’ name
We may have been just a cup of water in Jesus’ name or more precisely a hamburger, fries and drink in Jesus’ name. I believe having received much, we need to give much.
This year, we want to bring attention to the plight of veterans, a greater understanding and knowledge of Lou Gehrig’s Disease and above all else, share the unconditional love of Christ.
This year’s goal is a bit loftier than last year’s goal. Remembering the story of the fish, the loaves and the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-13), our goal is 5,000 five-dollar McDonald’s gift cards. We believe God will take care of the final count, so we have already purchased the 12 baskets for leftovers.
This year’s cards will be distributed to veterans throughout the Marion, Ft. Wayne and Indianapolis VA Hospitals, as well as the Muncie/Anderson VA Clinic.
We see each $5 as a gift card. We see each gift card as a meal. We see each meal as a way to touch a heart and give thanks to God for our freedom and to remind our real heroes that they matter.
If you wish to help us, you can send your donations to, the Redkey United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 545, Redkey, IN 47373. Catch you on Facebook.
For more information, contact Randy Davis at email@example.com or call the church at 765-369-2085.
Randy Davis is pastor of the Dunkirk Mt. Tabor and Redkey United Methodist churches in the East District.