Ebenezer United Methodist Church, in Oldhams, is doing its part to help families in Westmoreland County make it over the hump as the country transitions through challenging economic times.
On Aug. 18, at 9 a.m., the church opened the doors to its fellowship hall to serve the community from its food bank reserve and does so every third Saturday of the month. Guests need not be members of the church, and are greeted with hot coffee and pastries as they wait to be seen.
“This is our one-year anniversary,” said Ben Hudson, food pantry coordinator. “Last year we were scurrying because of the hurricane that came through the Northern Neck, but we made it and are proud.”
Upon arrival guests are registered by filling out a brief application that collects only pertinent information such as number of persons in household, ages and if there is anyone in the home with diabetes. The information is then entered into a database, guests are issued an electronic membership card and volunteers package food according to specifications.
“The technology for the cards was developed by a father-son team in Arizona,” said Vice President of Northern Neck Food Bank Brad Grinnen. “We serve about 4,000 guests over five counties, and the technology not only helps us with inventory, but it also helps us build relationships with our guests. That’s the most important thing to us – the relationships.”
In addition to the monthly disbursement from the main office, Northern Neck Food Bank, of White Stone, Ebenezer parishioners raise roughly $400 a month to buy food for the pantry. Fresh fruit and vegetables, in addition to dry staples, are purchased, and the Montross Food Lion makes large donations of frozen meats.
Mary Jenkins reflects on why she volunteers. “It touches my heart,” said Mary Jenkins, a volunteer with the food pantry. “I’ve been in a tough situation myself – been there, done that – and the truth is that we’re all just one paycheck from needing help, and we should remember that.”
When the pantry closed at 11 a.m., 68 families had been served.
“I leave here feeling good every time,” said Jenkins, “We’re helping others, but I tell you, we leave with the bigger blessing, the service done.”