• Serious About Cereal helps needy

  • Organizer's brush with death couldn't keep cereal drive from success

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  • As a child, Noel Fulkerson came from a less-than-wealthy family, a family that others reached out to help and provide with food and employment.
    A piano teacher provided Fulkerson with 25-cent lessons while the others were charged $1 per lesson.
    “Throughout my entire lifetime, I’ve had folks who’ve helped me get along,” Fulkerson, of Independence, said. “I just really feel like I need to pay it forward.”
    Despite a near-fatal health setback that took place four weeks prior to a large cereal drive that Fulkerson organized, he described his church’s annual service project as one that “went beautifully,” so much so that Fulkerson would like to make it more than just a once-a-year effort.
    St. Paul United Methodist Church, 3691 S. Sterling Ave., celebrates a day of service on the Sunday following Labor Day each year. Fulkerson said he wanted this year’s project to be a unique one that would involve congregation members in a different way.
    “A lot of our members are older and not able to paint buildings or do that kind of thing,” he said, “but yet, we want to be active in our community.”
    Fulkerson thought about items that food pantries always need, and boxes of cereal immediately came to his mind. Then, while tossing around ideas for a program name, Serious About Cereal seemed to stick.
    Now celebrating his 50th year as a teacher, Fulkerson, 70, is a well-known figure in Kansas City’s choir community, teaching first at Raytown High School and now at St. Mary’s in Independence. He serves as director of the Raytown Community Choir and as founding director of the Kansas City Metro Men’s Chorus. Both of those groups are heavily involved in serving others, as well, Fulkerson said.
    On Aug. 12, while Fulkerson was directing the Men’s Chorus in a performance at the Pavilion at John Knox Village in Lee’s Summit, he collapsed.
    Fulkerson went into cardiac arrest. That day, his heart stopped beating twice in a four-hour time frame. He was clinically dead for 12 minutes.
    Had it not been for CPR administered by a retired Arizona Highway Patrol officer, Fulkerson said, he would’ve been pronounced dead.
    Fulkerson had to hand off his responsibilities with Serious About Cereal. The church, along with members of Fulkerson’s choirs, went ahead with Serious About Cereal, passing out boxes of cereal to those in need at the Independence Farmers Market on Sept. 8. Using Facebook, Fulkerson also conducted a cyber-cereal campaign, collecting 225 boxes of cereal. Those leftover boxes were then donated to the Salvation Army and to the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church food bank in Independence.
    And then, out of his own pocket, Fulkerson wrote a $500 check to Harvesters.
    He “seriously intended” to attend the Farmers Market distribution event, but Fulkerson said he was still feeling ill.
    Page 2 of 2 - For the future, Fulkerson said he hopes the neighborhood surrounding St. Paul UMC will adopt Serious About Cereal as a long-term project to help the needs of the greater community. As a Wesley-minded Methodist, Fulkerson said he believes the church should serve the entire community, not just the members themselves.
    “I very strongly believe in that,” he said. “I really feel that we should have monthly days of service, or if nothing else, at least biannual days of service throughout the church. God has given us so many gifts that for those of us who have been given a lot, we need to pass those blessings on to those who really need it.”

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