By Michael Reisig
Kyle and Debbie Todd have a mission – in both the literal and cerebral sense. They have taken it upon themselves to feed the needy, and working with the Mena Assembly of God Church, and Acts of Love, this is what they do.
Kyle was born and raised in Mena. He attended Mena High School and graduated there in 1983. After graduation he pursued a VoTech career at the community college, eventually going to work for U.S. Motors in the late 1980s, and later with Sterling Machinery in the early 1990s.
Debbie was born in Arizona. At the age of four her family moved to Mena. “Dad wanted the family to live in a small town, and he had an opportunity to go to work with U.S. Motors,” she recalled. “That brought us here.”
The couple met in high school and dated for eight months. Although they “broke up” for a few months, they got back together in 1984 and married shortly thereafter. One of the things that drew them together was that they both carried a compassion for their fellow man, and they both had a powerful spiritual passion.
“We just always felt the desire to help, the compassion to help other people, and it eventually manifested itself in ‘Acts of Love’, although we really didn’t know where it was going at the time,” Debbie explained. “In 2004, my sister, Gwen, and I, started a food distribution program in a small 12-foot by 12-foot room at the Assembly of God Church. We would do purchasing through warehouses with church-funded money and distribute the food each week. This was going well, but when the April 2009 tornado hit, our program exploded and we became one of the central distribution locations for food supplies in the area.”
Kyle added that they also worked with other churches and organizations then, and it gave them the foundation and brought them to the attention of the community. “Samaritans Purse with Billy Graham came into town then and set up a distribution/home repair station, providing ministry and emotional support as well, and working with that organization inspired us even further,” he said.
Debbie added, “It was then we realized we were being called into this form of ministry – helping people recover from catastrophic situations through food assistance, emotional support, and counseling. And this moved us to pursue becoming emergency chaplains – not serving as a pastor in a single location but as a chaplain for the community, and Acts of Love was truly born.”
Today both Debbie and Kyle work with several other churches in Polk County, helping with food for their pantry distributions. Over the years their organization has grown and expanded into a 40X80 building adjacent to Mena Assembly of God Church.
“We have approximately 30 volunteers who work with us on a regular basis,” Debbie explained, “We have grown far beyond just collecting food locally and distributing it. Today, up to three or four times a week, food is brought in to our warehouse and distributed to communities either through the distribution at our church or sent to other churches for their distribution.”
What started as a goal to assist others has become a passion, and an all-consuming one at that. Not only do they both have full-time jobs, but the Todds work continuously at their food distribution network. Debbie usually arrives at the food warehouse by 6 a.m. each day. She will work there for two hours before going to her “daytime” job at Rich Mountain Community College. She’s back at the warehouse for an hour during lunch, and after work she returns for a final hour or two. Kyle is always found there after work and on weekends.
“Kyle said, “We do this for the love of Christ. People don’t care how much you know until you show them how much you care.”
“This is our passion,” Debbie added, “It’s the compassion in us that drives us. But we both have to say that none of this would be possible without all the wonderful volunteers who help us daily, and the support of the community. All of these people share in our goal and our vision, and the love of Christ.”