GATE CITY - Each month, the volunteers at the Scott County Cooperative Ministries Food Pantry try to come up with a verse from the Bible that describes what they do.
"The first was mine, Proverbs 22:2, â€˜The rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all,'" said Food Pantry Executive Director Freda Taylor.
While the volunteers are far from being financially rich, they find their work enriching.
"We are like one family here, and it is so nice to be able to help these people," said Ruth Collins.
Collins, a native of Scott County, is a member of Moore's Memorial Church. When she found out her church would be involved in the food pantry, she attended the first meeting to find out how she could help.
Now, as the pantry staff celebrates the first year in existence, Collins, a widow, has a new family in her fellow volunteers, and she has a host of new experiences gained from work at the Gate City operation.
"One time, we had two guys traveling to Alaska, and they were walking in the rain, trying to hitchhike to Alaska. They came in very wet. We invited them in and fixed them some stuff to eat and gave them some food to take as they hitchhiked to Alaska," Collins said. "That was exciting, to know we helped two guys who didn't even have a set of dry clothes to change into."
Wanda Crockett, a member of the Gate City Methodist Church, is a transplant from Atlanta. When she moved to Kingsport, the retired school counselor knew she still wanted to work to help those in need.
"This has been the place," she said of the offices and warehouse space where she volunteers twice a week.
"We really are a family here."
The volunteers at the pantry come from all over. They are members of the churches in the Scott County Ministerial Association.
That association of churches supports the pantry, Taylor said.
All of the $1,000 to $1,500 a month that is needed to run the pantry comes from donations. Those donations come from the association churches and from individuals in the community, she said.
Organizations like Curves and the Girl Scouts have held food drives for the pantry, but Taylor said they can get more for their money than the average shopper.
"We can get a jar of peanut butter for a nickel," she said.
While they can make money go further, Taylor said, with the number of people who count on them for meals, they do not turn down food donations.
"We opened May 2, 2006, and gradually our client list has grown to 700 families with an average of four members per family," Taylor said. "We get food from Second Harvest in Abingdon and King Benevolent, a branch of King Pharmaceuticals in Bristol, Tennessee, and we feed about 2,800 people. For some families, the food is a supplement, but for others it is the mainstay of their diet."
Taylor said she has seen families that have no income at all. Those people count on getting this food, she said.
"Sometimes a family has lost its source of income. Other times, someone may have a disability," she said.
It does not matter how people are dressed or what they drive when they come to the food pantry. If they say they need food, the pantry volunteers will get it for them.
"Not many people would ask if there was not a genuine need," she said.