Submitted by: the Calhoun Church
Submitted by: Richard McNeil
Life giving food pantries can be found in about 27 churches throughout the Conference. Typically operated by church volunteers, they provide food to those in need and are part of Adventist Community Services, which recently provided the Georgia-Cumberland Conference with a $25,000 grant from the North American Division (NAD), with food pantries each receiving $925.
“Food assistance is one of the important ministries at over two dozen of our churches,” says Chester Clark, III, vice president for administration/secretariat. “Whether a large or small operation, in every location our members are being the hands and feet of Jesus and helping struggling families with food, a most basic necessity for all of us.”
“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy (compassion) for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me,’” (Ellen. G. White, Ministry of Healing, chapter 9). “I can think of nothing we do better than feed both body and soul as Jesus did,” said John Weston, director of the Hope Community Center/Community Service at the Wimbish Road Church in Macon, Georgia.
Offering a food pantry for more than 20 years, the Wimbish Road Church members felt that, with many losing jobs due to COVID-19, “this would be a time that we should open our food pantry in a way we have never done before.” Since March they have provided a drive-thru emergency food bag distribution, giving away 100 food bags in addition to their usual monthly 30-40. The drive-thru is open Mondays and Thursdays, 1-2 p.m., and anyone in need can drive by and pick up food. They also set up a dedicated Community Service hotline.
One of the Wimbish Road Church members works as a family counselor and asked if she could give away food bags to the families at her job. She recently provided 13 families with food. “It was heart warming to know that we could help in a way that makes a difference in their lives,” added Weston.
At the Atlanta Southside Church in Jonesboro, Georgia, Una Rickets feels fortunate to have worked with the food pantry for a year. They distribute food every second and fourth Sunday, and provide food to 35-55 families. They give away items such as canned vegetables, soup, pasta, spaghetti sauce, rice, yogurt, milk, turkey sausage, chicken, hamburger, peanut butter, and sports drinks.
Lyndon Barham, Atlanta Southside first elder, said they have operated their food pantry for eight years, adding that it was a prayerful decision to keep the pantry open during COVID-19. They are glad they did, to meet the needs of their community.
On the east side of Atlanta, the Stone Mountain, Georgia, Church food pantry has been serving their community on Tuesdays from 3 to 8 p.m. since 2010. Now with COVID-19, the numbers they serve has increased by approximately 30 percent. They also receive calls daily from social workers seeking food.
To ensure security, “We are now operating a drive-thru pantry,” said Violet A. Philips, food pantry director, who misses the human interaction. “Our volunteers do not just dispense food, we build relationships. We get to know our customers. We visit them when they are sick, and we call to check in from time to time.”
Glenda Thomas serves as the director of the food pantry, God’s Pantry, for the Calhoun, Georgia, Church, that was founded 28 years ago. She says COVID-19 has impacted how they serve clients. Clients now must remain in their cars until someone obtains their information and brings out their grocery carts of food.
She shares an experience when two women were recently visiting God’s Pantry just as it was closing. They gave the women their food, which happened to include two decorated cakes recently received from a local grocery store. How wonderful that it was one of the women’s birthday the day before and the next day happened to be the second woman’s birthday. The cakes overwhelmed them; neither had received a birthday cake in a long time.
Thomas says she is blessed: “They are more appreciative now than they have ever been. The stories I hear as I am checking people in are priceless. My biggest hope is that we are planting seeds in this mostly forgotten segment of Gordon County.”
At the Hope for the Hungry Food Pantry in Coalfield, Tennessee, the managers, board, and volunteers watched God work miracles on a regular basis. Leaders Teresa Baer and Danny Treece feel like the ministry has grown far beyond what they imagined, and that resources seem to appear as they step out in faith to answer the hunger problem in their community.
They began in 2016 serving about seven families, and grew to serving about 300 families for three counties in 2019. They did reduce their service area to two counties in 2020, and are currently feeding about 150 families.
“The community has embraced our Church as it never has in the past,” Baer said. “We have volunteers from the community representing varied religious denominations supporting the food pantry. There is a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’ that is shared by the food pantry managers, volunteers, and pantry members.”
Reopening their food pantry May 6, 2020, the Jasper, Georgia, Church is operated by Jane IntVeldt. She said a woman and her daughter who had previously attended church and their church school, have learned about the health message and want to come back to church. IntVeldt says Matthew 25 inspires her, as Jesus said, “If you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto Me.” It is a much needed, non-threatening outreach.
The Robert DeForest Community Service Center Food Pantry in Ringgold, Georgia, weekly serves from 17 to 38 households surrounding the Battlefield Community Church in Ringgold, Georgia. Justin Childers, pastor, shared the story about a man that came to their food pantry last year. He told an elder that he had asked three pastors from another denomination to come and pray with his wife, yet no one came. When Childers heard the story, he went to their home and prayed for the man’s wife. Since that time a friendship has developed with Childers visiting each week, and the wife is taking It is Written Bible studies. Childers recently delivered food pantry items to them during COVID-19.
is the communication director at the Georgia-Cumberland Conference.
Georgia-Cumberland | August 2020