Small church, big heart. That describes the folks at Hamilton Mill Presbyterian Church and their Food Pantry. Pastor Juan Herrera, Administrator Pat Weaver, and a tiny group of volunteers put together food boxes to be handed out to families in need. They serve twice as many people as they have congregants, creating a two-to-one ratio. Put another way, it takes each member of the church donating food regularly in order to sustain two individuals in our community.
Pat Weaver reflects back on the humble origins of this service. “Approximately ten years ago, a gentleman came to HMPC. He was hungry. We had no food available. Our pastor at the time brought him in and shared his lunch with him,” Pat recalls. “We began having just a small box of things in case anyone came again. And, come they did!”
In their first year, the HMPC Food Pantry served a few regular families with no advertising. Steadily the word spread. By 2019, HMPC was providing food for 148 people; 72 of them children. Due to the pandemic and pressed administrative needs, we don’t have 2020 numbers, but 2021 is astonishing. Through July, HMPC has served 301 people; 153 are children. More than double the numbers from 2019 with five months to go in the year!
Remember, this is a church of about 150 members.
Says Pastor Juan, “Our goal is to serve the nutritional needs of the local community without regard to race, gender, or creed. If they are hungry, our goal is to feed them.” HMPC does this by providing a box of shelf stable foods, bread, and frozen meals sufficient for a family of four. Each box should get a family through eight meals.
“We realize this is only a portion of their needs and is intended to supplement other resources. We also provide a list of other food pantries in the area with as much detail as possible,” Pastor Juan adds.
For the Food Pantry at Hamilton Mill Presbyterian Church, there is no donation too small or too big. “A jar of peanut butter donated may not seem like much, but if someone else donates jelly or bread, you have a sandwich,” Pat says with a smile. It is truly that simple for a lot of people.
Once, a very large family visited the pantry. They asked if there was toilet paper available. Not something the pantry typically has in stock, this time they did. What a blessing! The youngest boy jumped up, looked at his mother, and said “Now I don’t have to go to all the bathrooms to get extra!” It is really exciting for HMPC when they receive unexpected but useful items.
The biggest inspiration for donors and volunteers is knowing that a family will eat that day and a few more because of their efforts. “For many, that is a fear that lives with them constantly,” says Pastor Juan.
He further states, “In addition to receiving nourishment, sometimes pantry visitors just need someone to listen to their challenges. Being a safe place of sustenance is part of our mission to reconnect people to Christ.”
The HMPC Food Pantry is open the first and third Saturday of the month. In between, they work tirelessly to restock for the next food pick up. All services are free of charge. For more information message Hamilton Mill Presbyterian Church on Facebook or call 678-714-3344.