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World Food Day 2016

October 21, 2016

I’m so pleased to share with you three guest posts from the scheduled speakers in worship on October 16, 2016, when First Presbyterian in Amory, MS observed World Food Day. The congregation was one of the founders of the Amory Food Pantry and Meals on Wheels. Sister and brother Hannah and Luke Hoang, grandchildren of our ruling elders Andy and Connie Love, share their experiences as youth working at the Pantry. Hannah and Luke are members of St. Helen Catholic Church in Amory. Ruling Elder Polly Brown, who has had a long association with both ministries, shares the history of Meals on Wheels. I am particularly glad to include her comments, which time did not allow her to present. Her husband, Ruling Elder Chuck  Brown, from his experiences, tells about the history and growth of the Food Pantry.

Many thanks to all who spoke and/or who were scheduled to speak last Sunday and to all the volunteers from First Presbyterian who work regularly with the Pantry and Meals on Wheels.

Hannah Hoang

I don’t really remember much of when I was first involved at the Food Pantry because I was so young. I just remember running around the desks and drawing pictures (probably wasting paper) at my mom’s desk in the front while she was working. I would also go with her when it was her time to clean and help her vacuum.

Over the summers, and as I got older, I started having jobs to do. They were usually just helping my mom or working with Ms. Debbie Lay. Occasionally I would bring a friend, and we would help with washing eggs or sorting toys. Then, I didn’t really understand how a food pantry worked. I guess I got its purpose and who went there and why, but I didn’t know a lot of people who worked there or how the food got there and how it all managed to work. But it somehow did every week.

But this past summer, I worked every Tuesday that I could (besides summer camps) and I learned “the system” and I loved it! I know that if you were to tell a teenager that they would have to get up at 6:45 one Tuesday a week during the summer, they would think that you were crazy! But it’s not! My mom has taught me so much about how the food pantry works. I knew there was more work involved than just Tuesday morning, but you would all be surprised at how much work goes on behind the scenes!

For me, working at the Food Pantry isn’t just going to put cans in a bag so that when you apply for a scholarship, it looks good to have that under the “Community Service” column like I hear so often. To me it’s going to help those in need, to try and make a difference in someone’s life … it’s also to joke around and to laugh and have fun! I have met so MANY amazing people that work there. It’s like you are part of a little family. You are just surrounded by people who not only want to help, but who are eager to help!

One of the hardest things for me about working at the food pantry is hearing the ages of the children being called out and they are my age or around my age. I think to myself how I am here working, and they are here getting food. These are people that I go to school with every day. They never look hungry, but I know there are so many kids that are, and I am in class with them every day. It makes me sad and grateful at the same time.

On my last day working during the summer, I was sad and knew I would miss it. Not only was I not looking forward to school, I wasn’t looking forward to leaving the pantry. I love the Food Pantry. I love the people who work there. I love Ms. Linda Holden who holds it all together and doesn’t just give out food but gives out affection. But MOST of all, I love that Jesus Christ has guided me to help and to work and feed the hungry in our community, and I hope he can guide you to help in some way as well.

Luke Hoang

I started going to the food pantry with my mom when I was little. I didn’t have a real job at the pantry until I was older. My jobs are to help put items on the table for people to pick one and organize the soap, shampoo, and deodorant. Sometimes I stand and hold open the door for the men who push the buggies.

The food pantry helps feed hungry people, and I am glad that it does. It makes me feel good because I am feeding starving people who possibly don’t even have an apartment or home. It takes a lot of work and hours for the food pantry to be open. I am thankful we have people in Amory who help do this.

In the future, I would like to start working a different job. For instance, I would like to possibly be a bagger or a buggy pusher.

Working at the pantry has helped me because it has changed my life about people who don’t have homes or a lot of food and money. It has made me come up to think that there are people just like me there and Jesus sees no difference in us.

I think everyone should find a find a way to feed the hungry even if it is just praying for them.

Thank you.

Polly Brown

Back when Rev. John Larson was here (1), a group of pastors and other interested people met to organize a Meals on Wheels in Amory. We started having meals prepared by local restaurants and delivering them three times a week before lunch. Ellen McCluskey (2) planned the routes for many years. Eventually we went to frozen meals picked up on Monday mornings.

Many Presbyterians have coordinated and delivered over the years. Kathy Fox has been the very capable coordinator for us for many years.

Notes:

(1) John Larson’s pastorate began in 1971.

(2) Ellen was a member of First Presbyterian Church of Amory at the time.

Chuck Brown: The Amory Food Pantry Then and Now

My association with the Food Pantry (F.P.) began in the mid 1990s. I didn’t so much volunteer but was recruited by three ladies very passionate about the Food Pantry (Mel Streety, Sister Marie, and Sister Kathy).

To understand the Food Pantry of the ‘90s and what it was yet to become, we need to take a look back to the beginning and the Constitution of the Amory Food Pantry. That document states the purpose of the organization as follows:

                     A. The primary purpose shall be to minister to the emergency need of the residents of North Monroe County.

                     B. The immediate effort shall be to provide relief of physical need by furnishing food items.

                     C. This association will only try to provide for clients with short-term need. Long-term needs would be referred to other community agencies.

To do the above the F.P. would be open each Tuesday from 9:30 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. Two people were required to staff the F.P. each day.

By the mid ‘90s the F.P. was dealing with 20 to 30 families each week and needed 6 to 8 people to operate. There was no warehouse to store the volume of food required. It kept growing.

In August of 2004 the F.P. Board expressed a need for a larger space to accommodate the ever-increasing number of families it served. At its August meeting that year, the session of First Presbyterian asked the Property Committee to look for a building. It was found that the property at 204 4th St South was to be on the market. It had space, but did not meet operational needs.

In December of 2004 prayers were answered. Mr. Arch Dalrymple made a generous gift to the First Presbyterian Church. He deeded the building at 123 South Main St. for housing the Amory Food Pantry and other like agencies. The Amory Food Pantry was reborn and grew to new heights.

By the latter part of the first quarter of 2006 the F.P. was in its new home. We thought we would fill that huge space, but in April of 2006 we filled a big piece. Through the generosity of the Gilmore Foundation, a commercial walk-in freezer and a three-door commercial refrigerator were provided. Both filled a waiting need because in addition to our local growth we had taken on Hurricane Katrina evacuees living in the county now.

Then came the downturn of 2008. By early 2009 the availability for the needy to receive food was increased from 6 to 8 times per year. That was April. At the July Board meeting the terms were modified from 8 to 12 if unemployed, and after eight times one service per month up to the twelfth time. This could not have been done in that little red brick building, and the F.P. had grown far beyond that stated purpose at the beginning.

How much did the Food Pantry grow from there? From the year 2011 the Food pantry took in 313,000 pounds (156.6 tons). They served 4951 families; 14,115 people.

God has provided for every challenge.

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