By Cindy Solomon

Centertown (Tennessee) United Methodist Church received a $10,000 grant from the Golden Cross Foundation. Money from this grant was used to help fund a storage building for non-perishable items used in the church’s weekly food ministry program.

The program started in 2012 after church members learned about area children who were going to school hungry. Initially two volunteers prepared 20 bags of food every week to give to families. As word spread, the program grew. Now 15 to 20 regular volunteers — most over 60 years old — prepare and distribute between 200-250 boxes per week.

“The food ministry has provided a volunteer opportunity to many in our congregation, especially our older adults,” said the ministry’s chairman, Michelle Bodey. “We have become known in our community as the place to go for assistance with food. When the pandemic first began, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of people needing help. We continued our weekly distribution, even when other food distributions had stopped.”

The program’s continued impact and blessings are as varied as the individuals and families it serves.

“This helps so many people in our community,” said recipient Cindy S. “Not just me and my family, but my neighbors that I share with who aren't able to come. It makes a difference for so many!"

Recipient Julie M. said, "This allows me to spend a little extra on the other things my family really needs," while Tom H. said, "I'm able to save enough on groceries that I can buy my medications."

Food ministry volunteers plan to continue the ministry as long as they are able.

“The pandemic has not slowed us down,” said Bodey. “We continue to grow, and our volunteers show up every week. We have all complained about wearing masks, but we have worn them and continued our work.”

While space constraints currently limit further expansion, Centertown members have future plans. They hope to build a church addition to provide more space for the food ministry.

Ultimately, they know upon whom their hope rests.

“We see God at work every week,” said Bodey. “It seems no matter what specific need arises, the need is met. We’ve also seen God’s protection over us as we continue this work, keeping our volunteers safe and well—even through a pandemic.”