Two Church Food Banks Connect Community
Story by Tiffany Doss
Like many congregations, members from the Yale (Va.) church and the Damascus Grace Fellowship (Md.) church own food banks to help reach the community, but both congregations agree they are surprised with where it’s led them.
Yale members wanted to take on this ministry fulltime, and initially reached out to the Tidewater Food Pantry as an avenue for community outreach. “As it turns out, there was no distribution location for the surrounding area,” says Rick Shull, an elder. “So, we took on the responsibility to be the new hub for the county.” Area pastors of all denominations partnered with Yale members to help make this a reality, and now, on the first Tuesday of the month, they dispense 400,000 pounds of food to more than 200 families.
Through this work, Renee Stepp, pastor, was invited to speak at a volunteer recognition dinner. Her inspiring message led to a preaching engagement at the Hunting Quarter Baptist church (Va.). C. W. Robb, the church pastor, says he learned a thing or two about preaching from Stepp and that “this will not be the last time Adventists and Baptists fellowship together!”
Each month Damascus Grace members invite clients who use their food bank to join them for potluck. “Members bring extra food, and by God’s grace, we have enough to feed all who come,” says member Bonnie Wilbur. “We get to know each other and hear stories. One lady saw our sign and said she was so relieved because she only had enough money for food or to pick up medicine for her sick daughter—this allowed her to do both.”
As a result of this ministry, people who frequent the food bank now donate food and attend church functions. This unique way of facilitating a food bank profoundly impacted visitors Marilyn Shultz and Jim Clemmens. They decided to go back to their church in Annapolis, Md., and implement something similar.
Several years ago, member Richard Tydings started the food bank and challenged members to donate to those who were struggling. Members have since turned to Ken Flemmer, director of Adventist Community Services of Greater Washington, for advice on how to improve this ministry. From that meeting, Damascus Grace is in the process of forming a partnership that enables them to broaden their food distribution area.
“We sometimes feel like we need to reinvent the wheel in every ministry and every community, but, when we partner in ministries together, the benefits are compounded,” says Stepp.