Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Filling empty cupboards, restoring hope to Mainers in need

Kennebec Journal photo
by Jeff Pouland
Betty Morrell will always associate the woman with chili...and tears.

Morrell, director of Faith Christian Church's Food Pantry, said the woman arrived at the Gardiner church knowing her family only had enough food for one more meal.

Her son had asked for chili. Morrell was able to accommodate the request...with a pot.

And then the tears flowed from a mother whose desperation was temporarily relieved through a gift of food.

Such an interaction is typical at the food pantry where Morrell has seen a significant increase since Thanksgiving in individuals and families needing food

"We've gone from serving about 10 people each time we open to close to 20 now," she says.

"Those who come to the food pantry receive one week's worth of food," Morrell adds. "We've been very blessed in that we can provide not only canned goods, but fresh food as well thanks to the Gardiner Farmers' Market and Good Shepherd Food Bank."

A few miles away, at the Chelsea Food Bank located at RiverRock Christian Fellowship, Diane Richard and the food bank's other volunteers accommodate 10 to 15 families each week during the two days the site is open.

Richard, who started the program by building relationships within her community and seeking donations of food and money to support it, is passionate about the food bank's ability to help central Maine families in need.

While the food bank is open regularly on Wednesdays and Fridays, Richard makes sure she can accommodate those who need food but can't stop in on those days and times.

"If people can’t make it during the open hours, I make arrangements to get food to them at a more convenient time," she says. "People can call me for food or to make a donation to the food bank."

Morrell is equally accommodating in Gardiner.

"If people can't come on the days we're open, I come in special to open the food pantry. I also deliver food and sometimes pick people up to come in," she says.

Richard notes how important it is for people to know that the food bank does not have a financial eligibility requirement for those seeking help.

"Sometimes it may appear on paper that people have enough money for food, but that doesn't necessarily mean they do," she says. "We want to make sure they have enough to eat...especially if they have children to feed. We have to stop child hunger."

The eligibility requirements are similar at Faith Christian Church.

"Those who come in don't have to meet eligibility criteria," Morrell says. "They do acknowledge, however, that they're not able to meet the nutritional needs of their family and need assistance from the food pantry."

The Chelsea Food Bank and Faith Christian Church Food Pantry are but two of many wonderful outreach programs in Maine that are working to meet an ever-growing need for food assistance. That they share many commonalities in their approach is no coincidence.

Both Morrell and Richard view their efforts as a ministry - one that seeks to lessen the burden of others. The churches that host the programs and help support them with finances and volunteer labor back that up.

More importantly, so does the bible - from Matthew 25:35-40:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?"

The King will reply, "‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

This reference to serve others is not lost on Morrell.

"You only need to work at the food pantry once and talk to the clients to know how much need there is," she says. "Seeing people 'shop' for food makes me so proud. Seeing them leave with their heads lifted high makes me even prouder knowing that I have been able to serve them."

Faith Christian Church Food Pantry
  • Located at Faith Christian Church, 280 Brunswick Avenue, Gardiner, Maine
  • Open: first Wednesday of the month, 6 - 8 p.m.; second and third Friday, noon - 2:30 p.m.; fourth Saturday, 9 - 11 a.m.
  • FMI:  (207) 582-5432
Chelsea Food Bank
  • Located at RiverRock Christian Fellowship, 65 River Road, Chelsea, Maine
  • Open: Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
  • FMI: (207) 462-1750

1 comment:

  1. Great article, John! God has blessed us with the opportunity to touch many people's lives. Thank you!