The numbers of families needing help has grown up to 50% in just the past few weeks since the COVID-19 crisis began. A few new families needed help due to grocery stores having depleted shelves, but most are local families experiencing layoffs during the epidemic.
For nearly a week now, clients at both Of One Accord’s pantries in Church Hill (Emergency Services) and Rogersville, (Shepherd’s Center) have seen a quicker, easier and safer way of being served.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee has released a more relaxed set of guidelines for paperwork but a much more careful, safe way to provide service for its 200 agencies in East Tennessee.
Of One Accord Director Sheldon Livesay said the ministry is blessed in that “most all the people who work in our emergency food pantries are local church volunteers. Some have been working many years and given thousands of hours of service time.”
Ministry volunteer Rolax Jones, who has interviewed clients as a volunteer for nearly 20 years, said, “We used to have to gather clients together, bring them in our offices one family at a time for an interview where we viewed documents qualifying them and then sent them out to drive to the back of our building to receive their food. Now we are set up outside with caution tape separating us. Clients are to line up 6 feet apart, and we simply get their names and number in families before sending them around for food.”
Jones added that during these trying times we find more clients asking for prayer. He is finding many are anxious during this uncertain time and prayer helps them find comfort and strength in God. God is crying out to the people.
He says in Isaiah 1:18: “Come let us reason together. When He cries out to us, then we can cry to Him through prayer.”
The Rev. Carol Woody works with Jones as an interviewer.
“My desire is that our clients not only receive physical food but spiritual food, therefore we offer prayer to every client,” Woody said. “Our God is a God of the impossible, and we can trust Him in times like these. He still preforms miracles, and we still see Him working in our midst.”
Linda Jennings, another long-term volunteer who makes up the food boxes, has stepped up from volunteering one time a week to three times a week.
“I’ve been serving in the food pantry since 2006, and it has truly been a rewarding experience,” Jennings said. “I go home at night feeling like I’ve been the hands and feet of Christ.”
When asked if there was anything else volunteers wanted to say Monday, in unison they said “that representing Jesus Christ through this ministry is a great honor and blessing.”