Those who are struggling to make ends meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic can get help from two local churches that run drive-through food pantries in their parking lots every weekend.
“We look at this as an opportunity to love people in the community who are hurting,” said the Rev. David Campbell Jr., pastor of Tracy Creek Memorial Church in Vestal.
His church gives away food every Saturday, along with New Venture Christian Church in Binghamton. Campbell started the giveaway in March, shortly after schools and most businesses were shut down due to the pandemic. Some businesses, such as construction, have since reopened as Broome County goes through a gradual reopening process. But many people continue to struggle to put food on the table.
“We as a church love people where they’re at,” Campbell said. “It’s about loving other people and following the example that Christ gave us.”
Members of New Venture Christian Church heard about what the Vestal church was doing and decided to set up its own food giveaway, said Mark Elder, a church member who runs the children’s ministry, with his wife, Jessica.
“We have a heart for giving,” the Johnson City man said.
Both programs are similar. They receive most of their donations from CHOW (the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse) and church members pack the food in boxes. They load the boxes in the trunks of cars or other vehicles that stop by. All volunteers at both churches wear masks and gloves for protection against COVID-19.
Anyone in need can visit either church for food with no questions asked about their income. And members of the Tracy Creek church will ask food recipients if volunteers want them to pray over their vehicles, Campbell said.
“God has truly blessed the ministry,” Campbell said. “We will continue as long as we can.”
The food recipients are grateful for the food they receive, while volunteers find the experience rewarding, Elder said.
“They are overwhelmed with joy,” he said of those who receive the food. “Especially during times like these, it brings us happiness that we can do something like this.”
He and other volunteers show up week after week despite rain, snow or sunshine just to help feed the hungry. Theresa Nelson and Connie Fisher have packed and loaded countless boxes of food at Tracy Creek Memorial Church over the past several weeks.
“It’s about providing for others, caring for others and doing what God wants us to do,” Fisher said. “You have to provide for others in their time of need.”
“It’s a great outreach at this time,” she said of the food giveaway. “Everybody can use a little help.”
Some weeks, Fisher worries that there won’t be enough donations of food available to give away to those who need it. But that hasn’t happened yet.