These neighbors give their time to improve the lives of Lake Highlands’ youth. From after-school programs to mentoring and providing meals, the children of our neighborhood receive the compassion and service they need.

A convenience store robbery turned violent in 2005 when a worker was shot and killed. The owners shut down the store, and the building remained abandoned.

Every day, the pastor of Lake Highlands United Methodist Church drove past the yellow tape and thought about what God was trying to tell her; she was called to bring forth life from a place where tragedy struck.

The Rev. Jill Jackson-Sears prayed with members of her church that they would find a way to buy the building for a ministry that would give support to their neighborhood.

A church leader read the story of Jericho and how the people walked around the city seven times before the walls fell down. He told the congregation they needed to walk around the abandoned building, just as the people of Jericho, to ask God to drop down any obstacles that would keep them from getting the space and growing the ministry. They drove to the building and walked around, sang and prayed.

Now called the New Room Community Center, they started an after-school program. And through that, they found that most of their after-school kids were on free or reduced lunch. Seeing that food insecurity inspired them to start Feed Lake Highlands.

Feed Lake Highlands serves 200 households and over 700 people, once a month; about 50 families are on the waitlist.

“We wanted to feed the bodies physical food, but we also wanted to feed the minds of these after-school children,” executive director Jill Goad says. “Hunger is a community-wide problem and it requires a community-wide solution.”

A volunteer coined the term “God’s little grocery store,” for the New Room, where family members wear nametags, wait in the “conversation pit” and receive a “personal shopper” to help pick out groceries.

“We want to build relationships more than anything because it’s relationships that are going to change the world. It’s relationships that are going to change the community,” Goad says.

Each family member receives about 15 pounds of food, and the New Room also provides a nurse station providing blood-pressure checks and other resources for things like smoking cessation and dental checks.

Feed Lake Highlands found that a majority of mothers in their program lacked a high-school education. That led them to reshape the after-school program to emphasize entrepreneurism.

The kids participate in lessons such as a lemonade stand that raised $1,500. They’ve made cat toys for a pet orphanage, prayer blankets for a chemo center and place mats for a prison ministry. Feed Lake Highlands also sends the children to summer camp.