Be of Service—Close to Home (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, March 7, 2014

food pantry image

Be of Service—Close to Home (Feature Friday!)

Hunger is a scary thing. A very real thing. Countless people across the United States wake up hungry, or go to bed hungry, or perhaps both. Some of these people have families. Some of these people have two jobs. Some of them are on disability, or have been laid off, or are long-term unemployed. And still, they are hungry.

I attend church in a nearby suburb, in Skokie.  The church I’m a member of is St. Peter’s UCC Church, and St. Peter’s has a commitment to several ministries and organizations that feed the hungry. Like the Niles Township Food Pantry. This food pantry is a part of the Township government. (For those who aren’t familiar with the township set up, here’s my quick explanation. A township encompasses an area of several suburbs in size, in intermediate area of land between a town/village/city and a county.) So, the Niles Township Food Pantry serves people in several neighboring suburbs.

Some might scoff at the idea of hunger being a reality in this particular area north of Chicago, since this swath of suburbs is reputed to be affluent.  But hunger is often an unwelcome visitor. Sneaking into homes when the unexpected happens. Like a sudden, catastrophic car accident that permanently injures the main wage earner in a home. Or the loss of a job when a company closes. Or a divorce, or death, or any one of a countless number of grim, very real scenarios. And sometimes, the real need does not require a catastrophe; the family or the individual need may simply be a high cost of living and too little income. In other words, too much month, not enough money. Living on the edge of not-enough.

The Niles Township Food Pantry strives to feed 3500 people every month, on the average. They appreciate each and every donation—giving of food, money, time to volunteer, or any combination of the above. Plus, personal care items are in greater need than ever before. Soap, shampoo, razors, shaving cream, feminine hygiene products, not to mention laundry detergent. These items are so needed due to the increase of families in dire economic straits.

St. Peter’s UCC helps out this Food Pantry as they can, taking up several collections every year. Plus, the St. Peter’s Sunday school has designated the last Sunday of the month as collection day. The Sunday school students and teachers bring canned goods, pasta, peanut butter, and other dried goods to the church. St. Peter’s Pastor, Richard Lanford, appreciates the faithful ministry of church members Jane and Paul Abramchick. This couple brings the collected food over to the Food Pantry for distribution. This offering of food and the additional offering of money are two ways that the members and friends of St. Peter’s UCC offer out of the abundance with which God has blessed them to bless others.  God be with this Food Pantry, all those who help there, and all those whom the Food Pantry serves.

@chaplaineliza

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How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry (Feature Friday!)

A Year of Being Kind blog – Friday, February 21, 2014

feeding the community

How to Show Love? At a Food Pantry  (Feature Friday!)

Unemployment. Food stamps cut. Lack of jobs. (Sounds more and more like the daily newspaper or news website, doesn’t it?) Some people in some places already do something about it—like at the Soddy-Daisy Food Bank. The Food Bank has its beginnings in 1989. A group of people from Daisy United Methodist Church and Soddy United Methodist Church (from Soddy-Daisy, a small town about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee) joined together. They started the Food Bank to feed about a dozen families.

From these humble beginnings, the Food Bank’s outreach and ministry to hungry families and individuals has grown; during 2013, 370 families per month received food. Six churches are now involved—including United Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal and Catholic churches. The Soddy-Daisy Food Bank is now an ecumenical ministry for the larger community. Open twice a week on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings, the Food Bank offers foods from the major food groups (including produce!) and on Mondays the regular services of a certified nutritionist associated with the University of Tennessee.

This feature wants to focus specifically on Daisy United Methodist Church and its pastor, C. Don Jones. He considers getting involved with the local community around his church to be an important part of his larger ministry. He leads by example and encourages his church members and friends to get involved, as well. Pastor Don has had a strong commitment to the Food Bank for years, working there on a regular basis. He’s one of eighty volunteers who serve 70% of the people in northern Hamilton County, Tennessee that the USDA describes as “Food Insecure.” Every distribution day begins with prayer for the clients and the workers. About 400 orders go out each month with an estimated 1600 people being fed.

But let Pastor Don speak for himself:

September 26, 2013: “Today at the food bank we served 37 families and jump started two vehicles. One family asked me (I was wearing my Daisy UMC “ask me” shirt) if we could help with their electric bill. I told her we could. Someone told the family, ‘we say bad things about him, but he’s a pretty decent guy.’” [about which Pastor Don received additional humorous ribbing on his Facebook page.]

October 31, 2013: “Today I am thankful for the ability to help at the Food Bank and to not need its services.”

November 7, 2013: “November 1st. Food Stamps are cut to pay for bailouts of financial sector, unnecessary wars, and new subsidies to the insurance industry. This week Soddy Daisy Food Bank serves 131 families. Eight were turned away today for lack of food. Hopefully they will have something Monday. Folks, this is wrong!”

February 6, 2014: “Food Bank day. I recall the words of Dom Helder Caldera. ‘When I give food to the poor I am called a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food I am called a communist.’ His point was simple. No one wants to think about the issue.”

Few people want to think about the Food Bank (indeed, any food pantry!) until they need its services. Perhaps that’s a prudent reason to consider giving to a food pantry or related ministry near you? Give because we can. Give because people have needs. And most important, give because giving from a sincere and loving heart can be giving to the glory of God.

@chaplaineliza