Following more than a year of struggle, including a frequently depleted food pantry, Christian Ministry of Lincoln County is finally seeing improvements in its food supply and daily operations, experiencing one blessing after the next and feeding more residents than nonprofit officials ever thought possible.
One of the reasons behind Executive Director Susan Brymer’s ear-to-ear smile this month is the knowledge that impoverished Lincoln County citizens are now having their needs better met through both volunteers with the ministry and local churches and additional food donated from Second Harvest Food Bank of Charlotte.
A handful of Lincoln County churches have united with the Charlotte nonprofit to carry out operations known as “food drops.”
Christian Ministry is just one of more than 400 agencies in 19 North Carolina counties that pulls supplies from Second Harvest, Brymer said.
The large-scale food organization coordinates with any church that has a desire to sign up for the special drops and distributes between 8,000 and 9,000 pounds of items to the facility.
Currently, four different churches in Lincoln County participate in the drops along with a number of other worship facilities in neighboring counties and the surrounding region, Brymer said.
Daniels Lutheran Church in Lincolnton was the first Lincoln County church to jump on board nearly three years ago.
Since then, three others have taken on the challenge of helping feed those in need including Holy Cross Lutheran, Pisgah United Methodist and Middle Cross Baptist, all three located in Lincolnton, nonprofit officials said.
Daniels Lutheran member Don Williams said he witnessed a similar drop take place at First Baptist Church in Hildebran, in Burke County, and immediately knew it was something his church should also coordinate.
“I was thinking, ‘Why not?’” he said. “There are hungry people in Lincoln County, too.”
Twice a year, Second Harvest delivers a truckload of food to Daniels Lutheran.
Volunteers from both Williams’ church and others in the area contribute to the food sorting process, ensuring each local family in need of extra food receives both the same amount and type of items.
Even individuals as young as age 3 assist in handing out the food.
“The little ones like to get involved, too,” Williams said.
Each family is given a 50-lb. food box, often filled with a variety of groceries including fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, drinks, coffee and dessert.
The only qualification for recipients is that they already receive Christian Ministry assistance or regularly collect food stamps.
“I am extremely happy that we are able to help other people who are in need of food,” Williams said. “They are all pretty desperate.”
Nearly 100 boxes were distributed during Daniels Lutheran’s first food drop this year in March.
Williams revealed how church members expected to hand out twice as many boxes for this month’s drop, which took place on Saturday.
While the drops are vital, most of the recipients need food daily, not just additional groceries for their pantries a couple of times a year.
“I had a call from a lady the other day,” Williams said, “who wanted food in the giveaway but said, ‘What can I do to get some food now?’”
In response to the urgent area food need, Daniels Lutheran keeps additional items at its facility — items donated by community members, not Second Harvest — for anyone still struggling to find sustenance.
While Brymer is more than thankful for the generous volunteer efforts of the four county churches participating in the food drops, a total of 12 are needed, she said, in order to feed hungry residents living in the farthest corners of the county — particularly the western end and Cat Square.
“We want to reach rural areas without people coming all the way into town (to get food),” she said. “This (operation) is actually putting food in the neighborhoods.”
While the entire operation requires much time and energy — and most importantly, volunteers — nonprofit officials believe the drops are vital for residents without financial struggles to see first-hand the face of local poverty.
“It allows a church to actually see the faces (of those) whom (members) are putting money in the offering plate for,” Brymer said. “Poverty is a real problem in the county.”
In addition to food drops, hungry families across the community now have the opportunity to receive more food with Christian Ministry’s acquisition this past winter of two vehicles, utilized strictly for picking up and delivering items.
Not only was a new pickup truck donated to the ministry in early January but, weeks later, nonprofit leaders found a way to utilize the budget to procure a large van that a local couple once employed for delivering Little Debbie products to county businesses.
Brymer said she and other organization officials had been praying for at least one additional vehicle for a decade as volunteers scrambled daily to determine whose personal vehicle could be used for food pickup and delivery.
“This is the Lord’s doing,” she said.
The ministry uses the former Little Debbie van to acquire more food items from Second Harvest each month, separate from the food used for food drops.
Following the van’s first trip to the Charlotte organization earlier this year, at least seven pallets of grocery items filled the vehicle, Brymer said.
She said a number of items were ones Christian Ministry recipients had never before purchased because of the items’ high prices.
The ministry also plans to soon store more food on-site with the addition of a storage building next door to its headquarters on Poplar Street in Lincolnton.
Current renovations and construction are expected to be completed in the near future, Brymer said.
She also wants to issue area churches weekly email updates on information about the organization but first needs email addresses.
Churches are asked to call (704) 732-0383 with the specific contact information.