Like many congregations, Yale (Va.) and Damascus Grace Fellowship (Md.) members took to creating food banks to help reach the community, but both say they are surprised with where it’s lead them. Members of the Yale church (Va.) wanted to take on this ministry full-time 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, 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, Yale’s pastor, was invited to speak at a volunteer recognition dinner. Her inspiring message led to a preaching engagement at the Hunting Quarter Baptist Church in Stoney Creek, 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 those picking up goods from 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 Bonnie Wilbur, member. “We get to know each other and hear stories. One lady saw our sign and said she was so relieved—she had enough money for food or to pick up medication for her sick daughter—this allowed her to do both.”
Through this ministry people who have picked up food and who saw the food bank banner outside and decided to donate food have started attending church functions. This unique way of facilitating a food bank profoundly impacted Marilyn Shultz and Jim Clemmens, who were visiting from a church in Annapolis (Md.). They decided to go back and implement something similar in their own church.
The food bank was started several years ago after member Richard Tydings, 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 their ministry and from that meeting, they are in the process of forming a partnership that enables them to give more food to a broader 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.