Granite City reverend provides thousands of lunches for kids throughout summer

Ordinary people doing extraordinary things

Brian Kelly
October 14, 2019 - 5:04 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — This week, KMOX is honoring ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The Rev. Lisa Guilliams of Granite City is certainly one of them. 
Over the last decade, the Rev. Guilliams has helped feed tens of thousands of children and seniors throughout the region. She says it all started humbly enough, with a program for seniors she called FIGS.
"There really was a hole here in Granite City in 2009 as far as seniors were concerned," Guilliams says. "Thanksgiving Day of 2009 was our first FIGS meeting. We had a total of four people join us!"
Last Thursday, Figs served a delicious bratwurst lunch to nearly 100 people, in a newly acquired facility that can hold up to 300. 
In 2011 she expanded to helping hungry children with a program she called TWIGS, which began providing summer meals at four locations in Granite City. That first year they served 2,513 lunches.

"We were very disappointed because, at that point, the free and reduced lunch rate here in Granite in this school district told us it should have been much more than that," Guilliams says.

She realized that to reach more children, she had to add locations. So she did.

"This past summer that just ended, we were in 43 communities, in both Missouri and Illinois. We covered 12 counties, about 75 to 80 actual locations, and served over 109,000 lunches Monday through Friday," Guilliams says.
Six years ago the Granite City school district asked her to help feed children on weekends. So she did.

"Last year, we did a little over 34,000 bags of weekend food in 14 school districts. Again in this school year, we're in those districts and we anticipate up to 35,000 bags (this time)," Guilliams says.

She says her passion for feeding the hungry surfaced after her divorce. She had left a corporate job to study for the ministry and was financially struggling when she signed her two children up for Jr. High and High School.
"At first, I walked by a table that had forms for free and reduced lunch," Guilliams says. "I walked past it, I saw the sign, I turned around, and I went back. And I remember standing there, looking at it, and thinking 'how has my life come to this to where I'm struggling to feed my two girls?'"
Guilliams says she was able to get reduced lunch, which saved her $3.10 a day. It was something so small, and yet made a big difference.
"Every time I hand a child a bag, I see the face of my daughters. They could have been one of those TWIGS Children," Guilliams says.
And now, with the help of over 700 volunteers, under the nonprofit called The Family Treehouse, Figs and Twigs provides healthy and delicious meals to thousands of children and seniors.

The Rev. Lisa Guilliams: an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. 

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