Each morning during the school year, 23 preschoolers fill the Feed My Lambs Christian preschool on Shipp Street in Canton. They’re given two hot meals, and taught a Bible based curriculum that not only shares the love of God, but prepares them for kindergarten.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that there’s a very long waiting list of children whose parents want them to attend.
And with only one school in Cherokee County, those eager students are likely to remain on that list.
“We need another school building in Cherokee County,” said Elizabeth Weatherby, the founder of Feed My Lambs. “We need more space, more volunteers, more teachers.”
Feed My Lambs is a nonprofit ministry that counts on donations from businesses, churches and individuals to operate tuition-free Christian schools in impoverished areas. The goal is to empower at-risk children spiritually, academically, physically and socially while impacting the families and communities.
“Christian schools are very expensive,” Weatherby said. “There are many families who want their kids to go to a Christian school but can’t because of finances. The mandate God gave to me is to open Christian schools in poverty areas.”
She’s driven by a passion rooted in her own experience.
“God has called me to come back and get the children, children like I was,” she said. “I was born into poverty, alcoholism and divorce, and the church bus came and got me and my brother and sister and took us to church. This isn’t a ministry that I made up. It’s a ministry I’ve lived.”
It was 1982 when Weatherby first felt God’s call to help children. She began by working with local grocery stores to get donations for the community. She preached and sang in state and local prisons and worked with inmates and their families. And she began the first “Happy Birthday Jesus” parties, which to date have provided Christmas to more than 100,000 children. Check www.feedmylambs.net for the date of the Cherokee party, planned for the .
The first school opened in 1990 in Atlanta’s Techwood Homes. Feed My Lambs earned nonprofit status in 1992 and incorporated in 1994. The second school opened in Johnny Walker Government Homes in Marietta and the third in 1997 in Red Barn mobile home community in Woodstock. That location closed with the demise of the neighborhood.
Feed My Lambs currently serves more than 1,600 children worldwide. In addition to the Canton site, preschools are operating in Austell, Marietta and Atlanta, where an all-day program is offered at City of Refuge. Internationally, Feed My Lambs operates three elementary schools in Africa and two in Mexico.
“People need to understand that the first five years of a child’s life are the foundational years, when character and personality are being developed,” Weatherby said . “I’ve had elementary school teachers tell me they can recognize Feed My Lambs students because they are so kind and smart.”
The life-changing impact of the ministry can be seen in the families of the students as well.
“We have seen so many families come to know and accept Jesus Christ through a little child,” Weatherby said.
And the families become an active part of the ministry, which also relies on the support of community volunteers, local businesses and individuals who have a heart for children.
Weatherby is eager to open more preschools in Cherokee. Over the 25 years that she’s worked in the county, delivering food and developing the schools, she has gotten support from churches of all denominations as well as businesses.
She said that there are many ways to help, whether it’s preparing food for children, volunteering in the classroom or sponsoring a child, classroom or school.
“I’m eager to grow in Woodstock or Acworth,” Weatherby said. “We’re giving people an opportunity to give back to God by giving to the children. When you volunteer for or give to Feed My Lambs, you’re making a difference in the life of a child.”
Editor's note: Versions of these stories previously appeared in the September edition of The Cherokee Vine, a monthly newsletter that highlights news and events from churches, ministries and charitable organizations in Cherokee County.