A niece helping starving children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shared an emotional slide show that inspired a local organization to touch lives within the state and across the world.

A niece helping starving children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shared an emotional slide show that inspired a local organization to touch lives within the state and across the world.

When Palmyra couple Christina and Kurt Nelson saw images of the children in orphanages in the (DRC), they knew that God had a plan for them to help as their niece had done.

Nelson said she prayed for guidance, and she and what would soon be four fellow board members — Vice President April Nelson Camden of Center, member Robert Wideman of Hannibal, member Tracy Dames of Ewing, and member Patrick Camden of Center — soon received the call from a higher power to establish Pennies for Poultry. Through local fundraising efforts and volunteer work, the charitable organization sets up chicken farms to provide food and a chance to bring people closer together as they raise the birds. The team continues to gather local support to help children in need through separate missions planned for Haiti, the DRC and St. Louis.

“My heart just hurt to see those children with blank faces, no hope, not sure they would even get a meal that day,” Christina Nelson said. “It was gut wrenching and heartbreaking. So, I began to pray ‘Lord, no child should live that way, what can I do to help your children?’”

Beginning with a ham and bean fundraiser Oct. 2, Pennies for Poultry received enough money to start the first stage of a project to set up chicken coups, enclosures, supplies and chickens for a St. Louis neighborhood grappling with drugs and gang activity on Oct. 22.

Lucas Rouggley, Director of Oversight for the LOVEtheLOU community support organization, said three vacant lots have been transformed through the efforts of Pennies for Poultry and St. Louis University students, who constructed raised beds for a community garden in the space. Rouggley said the children face “overwhelming obstacles” growing up in the Enright neighborhood in North St. Louis. Thanks to the outpouring of support from the volunteers who helped the children set up the coups and enclosures, the neighborhood is witnessing a turnaround.

“At first, I think we were most excited about the potential for eggs and the occasional chicken soup, but as the months have gone on, I am amazed at how eight hens have actually brought our neighbors together,” Rouggley said. “This year, Christina will be coming out to teach the teens in our neighborhood about caring for the chickens. It is simple actions of love like this that we believe will begin to change the negative stories that plague St. Louis.”

Pennies for Poultry members look forward to the next step with their new friends in St. Louis. Nelson said the group is thankful for the local support that keeps their efforts moving forward. Upcoming plans include a mission to feed orphaned children in the DRC and a cooperative program with Hosean Ministries to help an orphanage and school in Haiti struggling to provide two meals a day to about 1,000 children.

Pennies for Poultry will continue to answer God’s calling reach out to all the children Nelson prayed for. A night of Christian Music will help gather funds for the second phase of the program with LOVEtheLOU. The fundraiser will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at Hall’s Chuckwagon, 220 S. Main St. in Palmyra, with a light meal provided for a free will donation. Please visit http://www.penniesforpoultry.org for more information or to support the organization.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com