‘An amazing ministry’

600 county families from across county receive Christmas meal

By NICOLE SMITH, Daily Mountain Eagle
Posted 12/22/17

Approximately 600 families in Walker County will have a meal this Christmas, thanks to generous donations to the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Food Bank.

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‘An amazing ministry’

600 county families from across county receive Christmas meal

Posted

Approximately 600 families in Walker County will have a meal this Christmas, thanks to generous donations to the St. Mary’s Episcopal Church Food Bank.

Vehicles were lined up around St. Mary’s in Jasper Thursday as families in need picked up food for their Christmas dinner. Church member Mike McClendon said a small food closet many years ago has now grown into a ministry that feeds hundreds of families in Walker County.

Each week, roughly 100 families pick up a bag of groceries at the church, and this year’s large Christmas food distribution was made possible through a Valentine’s luncheon held by their women’s group in February that raised $10,000. Contributions from the Walker Area Community Foundation, the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama and Son’s Supermarket also made the holiday food bank possible.

“This year we have doubled the number of families we serve,” Rev. Robin Hinkle said.

McClendon said in their first hour and a half of distribution Thursday, 177 families received items to make a Christmas meal, and 420 families were registered to benefit from the holiday food bank.

Thanks to some deeply discounted groceries from Piggly Wiggly in Birmingham, the ministry had enough food to serve an additional 200 families Thursday, which allowed non-registered families to still receive food.

“We’re giving everybody a box of all the fixings they need to make a good Christmas dinner, a spiral cut ham and a bag of oranges,” Hinkle said. Each box was filled with canned goods, macaroni and cheese, stuffing mix, a canned ham and cranberry sauce. Coca-Cola also donated 2-liter soft drinks for families to take home.

Families that had children were invited to come inside the church and choose one toy for each child to have for Christmas.

People in the community donated many of the toys, along with the Christian Service Mission in Birmingham, and some were purchased by the church, Hinkle said.

A light breakfast of biscuits, coffee and orange juice was also served for guests Thursday morning.

McClendon said the food bank in general has grown from giving away 30 bags of groceries every week in its infancy to now giving an average of 120 bags of groceries each week to families in need in Walker County.

Eighty percent of families served through the food bank are from the Jasper area.

“The number of people who need help in Walker County and Jasper ... is just amazing,” McClendon said.

Hinkle said during each food bank distribution, she takes time to hear the stories of those being served, many being single moms, victims of domestic violence, those seeking treatment for addiction, grandparents raising their grandchildren, and the elderly and other people who need a helping hand, especially during the Christmas holiday. Many people who have utilized the food bank have become church members.

“It’s an amazing ministry,” she said. “We’re just helping people to figure out their way. ... The word has gotten out that we do this, and we’re glad.”

In addition to the Christmas food bank distribution, St. Mary’s will host a Christmas Nativity Pageant at 10 a.m. on Christmas Eve and a candlelight service that evening at 5 p.m.

To learn more information about the church or register for their food bank, call (205) 387-7746.