Covid-19Magazine Exclusive

Now, he’s a giver

It’s a sweltering summer day as Envoy Kevin Knappins pulls up to a city park in Sandusky, Ohio. His van is full of food. The people in the park recognize the familiar black vehicle with the Salvation Army shield. They come running.

Knappins, who was formerly homeless before graduating from the Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) program in 2005, knows how it feels to be hungry and desperate. Today, his heart is soft for the downtrodden.

“For a lot of years, I just took and took and took, until I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior,” says the man who now gives.

“Now, it’s just in me that, when I see somebody who needs help, I help them,” he says. “Christ has called me to help those in need and to talk to them about Him. It’s also an opportunity for me to share my experience with Christ.”

Knappins had a rough upbringing in Toledo, Ohio, where he abused marijuana, alcohol, and cocaine. He was 35 when he became a Christian at the ARC in Toledo and decided to put Christ first.

He and his wife, Envoy Tracy Knappins, spent much of the summer delivering food to people who are down on their luck from COVID-19 and other problems. This month, the couple will become the commanding officers of the Elyria, Ohio, Corps.

The Sandusky school district received a $20,000 grant from the Children’s Hunger Alliance, a statewide non-profit, to help feed children during the summer. The Knappins delivered those meals to three parks and a firehouse.

“It’s been going pretty well,” Envoy Kevin said. “Quite a few organizations and churches here have all come together.”

The lunches are prepared at Sandusky High School. The Salvation Army picks up 100 meals and delivers them Monday through Friday.

“We started off immediately when schools closed,” Knappins said. “People pretty much know the vans now when we pull up. They all come over. It’s become a staple now. They know we’re there. They come over and talk. We’ve got to do some social distancing, but they’re grateful.”

Knappins said he usually gets help from his wife and Mike Planko, a senior soldier.

Sandusky is a poor community, Knappins said. Most of the kids in the parks are with their grandparents, as the parents are working.

The Children’s Hunger Alliance (www.childrenshungeralliance.org) says 529,000 children in Ohio come from a home with food-insecurity issues. That’s one out of every five kids in the state. In 2017, Children’s Hunger Alliance provided 7 million meals and snacks to children in Ohio.

In past years, The Salvation Army ran the summer lunch program in Sandusky and had to prepare and deliver more than 300 meals a day to parks and other locations.

This year, thanks to the $20,000 grant, The Salvation Army can take a breather.

“That has really benefitted us this summer,” Knappins said. “Otherwise we’re preparing the food and delivering it too and that’s an all-day thing.”

Knappins said pastoring during COVID-19 has been a challenge and, while the corps has tried to connect through Facebook Live and other means, he said he misses the corps. About 95 percent of the congregation depends on being picked up for services.

“The connection with the people is strained because we can’t get together. That personal relationship is missing with our kids and even the elderly people. They miss coming to the church and hanging out and we miss them.”

by Robert Mitchell

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