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Bethany Lutheran Church in Longview will host a childhood hunger awareness program Monday as part of the kickoff to a three-year, denominational grant the church received this year.

The free event is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Monday at the McClelland Arts Center, 951 Delaware St. in Longview. The official program, which will feature local statistics and stories, will last about 45 minutes. Attendees can spend the rest of the evening meeting with representatives from local service programs and discussing how they can play a part in feeding local youth, said Barb Clausen, Bethany Lutheran service committee member.

“One of the things we’ve discovered is that it’s a real challenge for churches to know which agencies are in town … and how (those services) can help them. This is a chance for a wide variety of them to learn about the service agencies and help them,” Clausen said.

Raising awareness of childhood hunger is just one component of the grant, Clausen said. The money itself will be used to start a “grab-and-go” snack program or a weekend backpack meals program for the local school districts, Clausen said.

Additionally, the grant requires Bethany Lutheran to work collaboratively with the other Evangelical Lutheran Churches of America in Cowlitz County. That includes St. Paul Lutheran Church in Castle Rock, Gloria Dei in Kelso and Stella Chapel and Trinity Lutheran in Longview.

“Even through the grant is administered to Bethany Lutheran, it’s not just for us,” said Pastor Megan Filer. “My hope is this is just the beginning of churches, faith communities, organizations, people and parents being able to work together to service this really big need.”

The grant is sponsored by Evangelical Lutheran Church in America World Hunger, a faith-based food assistance nonprofit. Bethany Lutheran will receive $6,000 in the first year of the grant, and $15,000 over the grant’s lifetime.

“We’ve already been working with our fellow Lutheran Churches to serve those in need when we are able to. … (This grant) is a continuation of what we have been doing, and a way to grow from there,” Filer said.

But childhood hunger isn’t limited to the Lutheran faith, so Clausen and her fellow service members are encouraging volunteers of all denominations to get involved.

“Helping the hungry is a duty we all have,” Clausen said. “We are hoping that through building awareness, we can increase the understanding and compel more people to serve others.”

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