Cars gathered on W. 21st Street and around the corner of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Avenue A early Wednesday morning in anticipation of the church’s monthly meal giveaway in partnership with USDA Farm to Table and Cash-Wa Foods.
The giveaway wasn’t officially supposed to start until noon, but with cars lining up as early as 8 a.m., the volunteers under Pastor Nona Hodder’s direction began serving at 11:30 a.m. The first 75 cars received a box of frozen meat, a box of dairy, a box of fresh fruit and vegetables and a half gallon of milk, all provided by the USDA. Those who came after received a box or two of nonperishable items from the church’s daily pantry until all the food items were gone.
“It’s based on the scripture ‘Feed my Lambs,’” Nona said. “And it’s fun too.”
Congregation members and their friends and families volunteered their time to help serve the food. Some directed traffic while others handled the food.
They were even joined by Pastor Edwin Bravatti of the Scottsbluff Seventh Day Adventist Church.
“I knocked on this church, and she opened up,” Bravatti, who was looking for a place to host a regional camp meeting, said. “She told me what they were doing, and I said, ‘I’ll come and help you.’”
Nona stood in the middle of the street to direct traffic and record the number of people in each family. She greeted each car with a “Hi, how are you today?” and sent them off with a “God bless you.”
“We’re keeping track of how many people are in their families for the purpose of grant applications,” she said.
These grants, along with donations from Gary’s Cleaners, First Presbyterian Church and congregation members, contribute to the daily Pastor’s Pantry.
The four-day Pastor’s Pantry program will continue year-round. It began three summers ago with just two small cupboards of food outside the pastor’s office, when community members started coming to Nona for help with food for their families. The pantry has since grown, with shelving lining an entire hallway and a separate room in the church building.
“We do not qualify any of the recipients. We just count the number of people in their family,” Nona said. “They’re not pre-qualified; they don’t have to have driver’s licenses, and that’s unusual for food pantries.”
The day ended with only two boxes of non-perishable food items leftover from the pantry. After the team packed up their tents and chairs, they gathered in a large circle for a prayer of thanks.
Aug. 5 marked the church’s third big food giveaway; the previous two were hosted in June and July. Nona said they would do the monthly giveaway if their partners plan to continue, but currently this was the last scheduled giveaway event. There are no current plans for September.