On Tuesday, July 8th a tractor trailer backed up to the BackPack Weekend Food Program (BWFP) warehouse loading dock with approximately 40,000 pounds of potatoes which would become food for hundreds of families across Gaston, Lincoln and Cleveland Counties! Rev. Angela Hollar, an elder in the Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church felt the need to help the community in some way and reached out to a colleague Rev. Michael Binger who is the regional director of the Society of St. Andrew for the Carolinas. This non-profit organization works to help stop hunger through gleaning and working with farmers and hundreds of volunteers to help eliminate food wastage. Since 1992, the Society of St. Andrew has operated a statewide, volunteer-driven Gleaning Network that coordinates with local farmers, thousands of volunteers, and food providing agencies. The North Carolina Gleaning Network is going strong, salvaging over five million pounds of fresh produce for the hungry each year. Rev. Hollar worked with Rev. Binger to coordinate the delivery of the potatoes to Gastonia.
Rev. Hollar, a member on the board of directors for BWFP, felt it was a natural partnership to start with the agencies and churches who are involved with the BackPack Weekend Food Program in Gaston County as well as others. Rev. Hollar reached out to Dallas Butler, Executive Director of the BWFP, along with Becky Greene, director of Spiritual Formation at FUMC, Gastonia and Theresa McIntosh, FUMC, Gastonia coordinator for Family Promise to join her in this outreach effort during a time when so many people are struggling to make ends meet. So a potato drop became a reality.
Volunteers began working on the project several weeks before the potatoes arrived. Approximately 4,000 mesh bags were cut and tied to hold the potatoes. On Tuesday evening volunteers unloaded the pallets of potatoes and began packing potatoes into 10 pound bags for distribution. On Wednesday morning, 21 pick-up trucks and trailers arrived every 15 to 20 minutes to receive about 1,000 pounds of potatoes in each truck bed. Each driver returned to his/her respective organization where volunteers packaged the potatoes in bags holding 10 pounds of potatoes. The potatoes that were distributed provided approximately 120,000 servings of potatoes.
Using community contacts through the BackPack Weekend Food Program along with many churches the following organizations participated in the potato drop:
Belmont Foursquare Church, Bessemer City Crisis Center, Calvary Baptist Church, Gastonia, Crisis Assistance Ministry of Gastonia, Camp Sunshine, the Catawba Valley District of the United Methodist Church Missional Network 13, First ARP, First United Methodist Church, Cherryville, First United Methodist Church, Dallas, First United Methodist Church, Gastonia, First United Methodist Church, Mt. Holly (covering Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization, Belmont SOCKS, & Mt. Holly Community Garden), First United Methodist Church, Stanley, Gastonia Boys and Girls Club, Highland Neighborhood Association and the Highland Cultivators, Mt. Zion Restoration Church, Myers Memorial United Methodist Church, Park Street United Methodist Church (covering Belmont Community Organization), Parkwood Baptist Church, Redeemer Lutheran Church and Today’s Daily Bread.
Through the teamwork and efforts of approximately 220 volunteers from these churches and agencies, this event blessed hundreds of people not only those receiving the food but those who volunteered their time to make this event possible. Volunteers followed the governor’s mandates and CDC guidelines for COVID-19.
Article submitted by: Rev. Angela Hollar