Jadee Gilley will be celebrating her 14th birthday in a few days. As she pursues what has become a passion for the Pilot Mountain teenager, much of her day will once again be serving the needs of those around her.
Two years ago, on her twelfth birthday, Gilley spent the day volunteering with Maranatha Homeless Outreach. Maranatha is a local organization that meets regularly to distribute ready meals and other items to anyone in need.
That day, in early 2019, she had helped distribute fruit from the group’s usual position in a parking lot at the intersection of West Pine Street and North South Street in Mount Airy. As she watched people eagerly claim and savor pieces of fruit, some of which had passed their prime, she was moved by the urge she unexpectedly witnessed so close to home.
She continued to volunteer every Friday as she realized she wanted to do more.
“A month or two later,” Jadee’s mother recalls, “she came to us and told us that was what God called her to do. She wanted to start her own ministry and operate it by faith.
Jadee, with the support of her parents, James and Shasta Gilley, her brother Tripp, and her church, Pilot Mountain Community Church, established cross-training ministries. The ministry is now working with Maranatha to help provide meals while reaching out to the region and beyond to meet the needs of people’s lives as she sees them. Jadee Gilley is also now the Youth Leader for Maranatha.
A grade eight student on the Mount Airy Middle School Honor Roll, Jadee leads a busy school life, taking an interest in cheerleaders and the student organization HOSA Future Health Professionals.
Her ministry remains a priority, however, as she sometimes prepares meals in the evening and gets up early to prepare food before school. She can fill a slow cooker with spaghetti before school so she can distribute hot meals immediately after.
As in many areas of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes in efforts to provide meals. Maranatha had previously served meals three times a week as well as meals in local motels and in lockdowns. Now, boxed meals are served once a week and delivered to the pens.
“Before,” noted James Gilley, “volunteers could serve meals and talk to people. The people enjoyed the interaction and so did we. Everyone wants to feel noticed and valued.
Cross-training ministries also strive to provide emergency groceries as needed and to fill local “blessing boxes”. Boxes are mounted in public spaces, making canned and non-perishable foods available to anyone in need. Clothing and shoes are also provided subject to availability.
Jadee and other family members also made several trips to Beattyville, KY. Beattyville is located in Lee County, described by Gilley as one of the poorest counties in the country. As she did at home, Jadee used the value of working with other government departments in order to effectively reach more people.
She and others from across the region helped a Beattyville ministry provide meals.
She also helped with a newly established homeless ministry in the small town, helping provide meals and clothing. While volunteering, she noticed what she remembers as a desperate need for kitchen utensils to use in meal preparation.
Upon her return to Pilot Mountain, she began working to inform others of the need and began collecting donations of cooking utensils and clothing. She and her family were quickly able to return for more volunteer service while also delivering a supply of needed goods to the ministry, goods that are now in use.
The majority of donations received by cross-training ministries continue to be used locally. In addition to church and family support, Jadee regularly receives donations in the form of clothing, food and money.
“Jadee is good at stretching a dollar,” explained Shasta Gilley, “and God provides. I’m probably a lot more concerned about meeting needs than I do.
“In doing this,” Gilley continued, “we saw miracle after miracle. One day she was shopping and she was missing $ 20 of what she needed. Someone in the store started talking to her about what she was doing and gave her a $ 20 bill. Another time we were feeding a long line of people with a limited amount of chicken fillets. Everyone ended up feeding and we never ran out. .
In September, family and friends helped Jadee organize a motorcycle ride to her church to raise funds for the cross-training ministries’ winter efforts. Over $ 1,000 was raised in addition to winning sponsors for the ministry’s Christmas effort. This year, the number of children receiving four or more Christmas presents each more than doubled, with 22 sponsored children. About 1,000 items of clothing were also donated during the hike.
The funds were also used to purchase medicines for two people in the area and to provide festive meals for a resident suffering from a serious illness.
As word of the ministries’ combined efforts to provide meals spread, Jadee and other volunteers saw more and more people in need receiving help.
“It continues to grow,” she said. “We want to help more people as God intends. “
“People don’t see Mount Airy as an area in need,” said James Gilley, “but they feed the trapped and the people who are struggling to make ends meet. If anyone needs a meal, we’ll find a way to feed them.
“When I started,” Jadee added, “it was a surprise. I had thought of it as a tourist town. After that first day, I wanted to keep going out and serving. God put on my heart. to help and serve, whether it be her meals, her clothes or something to help keep me warm.
Jadee and Cross Training Ministries are launching a new collaborative effort this week. Together with the Helping Hands Foundation, they will provide five meals a week to 185 elderly residents in the area.
“I really enjoy doing all of this,” Jadee noted. “It would be heartbreaking to stop. I get to know the people we feed and hear their stories. They are almost like an extended family.
So how will Jadee Gilley spend her next birthday?
“We take turns with Maranatha to prepare the food,” she said. “But on my birthday, I want the cross-formation ministries to be able to prepare and serve meals. That’s all I planned.