GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Sara Blue can do nothing but laugh when she mentions the occasions that she’s been called the ‘church lady.’

The reactions of people who meet her for the first time after talking to her on the phone at Calvary Church are hysterical to her. Her arms are covered in tattoos, everything from skulls and Bibles to chemical patterns and crosses. They are the ink of who she is.

They tell the unconventional story of how she became the church’s director of benevolence.

“I was a heroin addict for a very long time, and I’ve been in recovery for 16 years. But it took me a really long time to rebuild,” Blue said. “I felt very alone for a very long time. And so it was hard to reach out for help and I felt a lot of shame. And the one thing though that will make you break through that shame is when you’re like, ‘Oh, I actually don’t have anything to feed my kids tonight.'”

Blue was already a member at the church when she lost her job during the pandemic. As a single mother of two, she turned to the church’s pastor, who encouraged her to explore whether any of their benevolent programs would work for her family.

“Coming here was so positive because it doesn’t feel like ‘needy.’ You come in, the people who greet you are going to love you, pray with you, and they’re also going to be kind and you can shop for the things that you actually need,” Blue said. “And it was the only way that me and my kids ate for years.”

Now that she helps run the pantry, she applies that way she was treated to her mission, to be the hands and feet of Jesus and help those in need.

“Needy really doesn’t look like anything. It looks like all of us anywhere you’d look,” Blue said. “The greater mission is for people to not be hurt and sick and scared and lonely anymore, because most of us are. This world’s really broken. It’s really dark. And people are mean to each other. And we want to create a space where people come in and they just feel so overwhelmed with love.”

Blue and a group of more than 40 volunteers are serving more than 66 families and any other individual or family in need each month. They help refugees, widows, single parents and those who are back and forth between the lines of income and assistance.

“We really want to be the hands and feet of Jesus and not just say things but actually, in a tangible way, provide those things for people and to shine and show Christ’s love through that,” Blue said.

They are continually in need of personal hygiene products and will soon be offering items like garbage bags, tin foil and saran wrap. Having lived through times of great need, Blue is able to help provide a meaningful and impactful outreach.

“I just know how dark and scary that place is,” Blue said. “And it wakes me up in the morning now just because I don’t want people to have to feel that kind of sadness in their life.”

It’s through the support of strong community partners and community members that her Calvary Cares ministry can continue to support anyone who comes to them.

“We are so thankful for Feeding America because we do use a lot of that,” Blue said. “But then we also purchase everything that we have from grocery stores through the radical giving of the people at Calvary Church.”

Forest Hills Northern was the second stop for the Football Frenzy Tailgate. All of the food donated by the Huskies student body will be donated to Calvary Church’s food pantry to continue to support their neighbors in need.