Mt. Zion UMC in Darby, which has operated a small community food pantry for 10 years, went big on Saturday, August 15. Members gave out 300 large, heavy, boxes of free food to grateful neighbors in the church parking lot and delivered 12 boxes to homebound seniors.
The boxes were dropped off at 7 AM by Blessings of Hope, a regional food supply ministry based in the Lancaster area. Through its Hands of Hope initiative, Blessings delivers donated, prepackaged food to inner-city churches and communities, while keeping safe social-distancing rules intact. Mt. Zion purchased the boxes of fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and dry goods and had to distribute them on delivery day.
To fund this unusual giveaway, the church sought and received a $10,000 grant from UMCOR (the UM Committee on Relief) to purchase the food. It was one of many “Sheltering in Love” grants given by UMCOR to mission partners around the world to support outreach ministries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic fallout.
The church didn’t stop there. “We had 20 high school seniors come by to get grocery store gift cards we were giving out,” reported the Rev. Victor Gimenez, pastor. “And we registered a half-dozen of them to vote.” Volunteers also shared and explained information on the 2020 Census to promote participation, he added, “because our community’s residents are under-counted.”
This was the church’s second big Hands of Hope food giveaway, and they hope to do it again with more partners in September. “We want to use food as a magnet and offer the community more,” said Gimenez, who also serves nearby Union Memorial UMC in Darby and Clifton Heights UMC. Union Memorial partnered with Mt. Zion in the food distribution effort. “We want to add COVID-19 testing because not enough of our people are being tested.”
“Each time we do this we get better at it,” said Lamont Smith, a church trustee who shops for the church’s food pantry. “We get more volunteers and get better organized. We need to raise more money to do it again.”