Center City Christian Outreach: Hope in the Heart of Town
“We had a family with three children coming in for the sack lunches we provide every afternoon. The father had lost his job during COVID, so they were all living in his pick-up truck with a camper shell. They came in for the meal, but we connected them with some resources. We helped them find housing and work.” That was the moment when Sheila Planer realized her work with Center City Christian Outreach was making a difference.
CCCO is a volunteer-run, emergency food pantry serving people in the downtown area of Springfield. They opened more than a decade ago when eight local churches decided to pool their resources to help neighbors in need within our community. All eight churches finance the outreach center and supply it with volunteers.
“What stands out about us is the location and people we serve. It is a desperate location. We see some of the worst of the worst situations that people are in. There is a lot bigger need in this area than people realize. I think people don’t realize how desperate the situation is here,” Planer shared. She says the people they serve are severely under-employed or homeless. Now, they’re beginning to see more families.
Center City Christian Outreach has partnered with Ozarks Food Harvest since 2010, and Planer says they think of themselves as an extension of The Food Bank. “We couldn’t do it without Ozarks Food Harvest; we get the majority of our food from them. It helps us stretch one dollar into ten dollars.” CCCO uses the food to serve daily lunches and emergency groceries. They serve about 7,000 individuals a year.
Feeding neighbors in need and working with them to improve their lives is a calling many of the CCCO volunteers feel drawn to. “We get to know our people. Some come in every month. You recognize them. You know their families and their stories. It feels like family to them and us,” says Planer.
Ozarks Food Harvest is honored to partner with Center City Christian Outreach and help support the great work they’re doing in Springfield. If you’d like more information about this partner, you can find it here.