How do you continue to serve the hungry in your community during a pandemic? That was the challenge faced by Noel Food Pantry, a ministry of Noel Memorial United Methodist Church.
For 35 years, the church developed a model of the first-class service for the most vulnerable in its neighborhood. With the emergence of the pandemic, they were no longer able to rely upon the dedicated volunteers who had served us so well since they were in the high-risk group. The church's usual method of delivering services was not a good option because of the need for social distance.
Many of the guests walk from their homes or have limited means of transportation. It was important that the church remains in the Highland neighborhood to provide for them. Darryl Bailes with Pratt Industries secured 500 boxes from their Fort Worth plant and donated them to the food pantry. Having boxes was crucial to providing food in an outdoor setting. Volunteers packed boxes of food and loaded them on pallets to distribute curbside in front of the church.
Each week, guests were called and invited to pick up boxes of food. Guests stayed in their cars as volunteers loaded their food. For walkers, there was a separate station for them to pick up their items. Through a partnership with the NWLA Food Bank, they were able to provide non-perishable items, as well as meat, dairy, and fresh produce.
Cloth face masks, brand new books for families from our Children’s Book Program, new Bibles, and Children’s Art Kits from Noel Community Arts Program and personal hygiene kits were handed out. The ministry has always sought to provide not only for the nutritional needs of guests but to provide other sources of assistance.
Since April the church has served over 600 households through this new system of food distribution. New volunteers were recruited and many are from other churches and the community. Volunteers have served over 500 hours to make this happen.
What does the future hold? Noel is currently exploring new ways to deliver services to guests and provide for the safety of the many people who volunteer to serve.