Early in the morning, before the sun begins to rise, a semi-trailer of approximately 15,000 pounds of food arrives at Minerva United Methodist Church. About 30 volunteers are ready to roll up their sleeves to sort food items and bag produce. They have an hour to prepare before the Direct Distribution at Minerva UMC opens to the public.
In partnership with the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Minerva UMC offers a Direct Distribution the second Thursday of each month to its community members struggling with hunger. The distribution typically serves 200 families, approximately 500-600 people each month. Pastor Harley Wheeler, along with a few volunteers, also deliver 60 boxes of food to those unable to visit the distribution, due to mobility or transportation issues.
The program began six years ago when Pastor Wheeler and his staff evaluated the church’s work within their local community. Individuals would sporadically stop into the church in need of food assistance, hoping to receive help.
“It was heartbreaking; we didn’t know where to send them and couldn’t offer them any help because we didn’t have the resources,” said Cheryl Hart, church secretary. “Now we’re able to help fill the need and it makes you feel good to be the bright spot in someone’s day.”
Helping hungry neighbors in need was important to Pastor Wheeler. In Carroll County, nearly 14 percent of the population is considered to be food insecure, 38 percent of which are children under the age of 18. He found that pursuing a food ministry had an exponential effect on those they could help.
“When you’re able to set someone up with food, help them meet an immediate need, they then may have the resources to fix their car, pay a utility bill or get ahead on rent. It’s a minimal investment to be able to have a multiplier effect within a family,” explained Pastor Wheeler.
In addition to the Direct Distribution, the Foodbank encouraged Minerva UMC to open an emergency food pantry program, offering a three-day supply of food.
“It’s been a wonderful journey and we’re very thankful for our partnership with the Foodbank,” said Pastor Wheeler.
Currently, the Foodbank offers nine Direct Distributions per month to distribute large quantities of fresh, perishable food to communities in need of additional support. The food is quickly placed in the hands of people who need it most. Because of your support, the Foodbank is able to cover the cost of all food and transportation.