When folks call, usually one of the first things I want to know is, “Where are you ?” People have called Bethel from Broadway, Luray, Staunton, and other places outside of eastern Rockingham County or southern Page County. They seem to be working their way down a list in a phone book, trying to find somebody who will help.
Next, I try to find out whether the callers are making use of the resources that are already available for them. For example, in Page County, Page One offers a range of services. In the 22827 ZIP Code area, Elkton Area United Services provides a lot of help, in a very organized and thoughtful manner. The Virginia Employment Commission, Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services, Rockingham County Department of Social Services, People Helping People in Harrisonburg, and other agencies do a great deal to help folks who are in financial trouble.
Often the callers reply that they have indeed tried all the agencies I can think to suggest, but that they still come up short and need a hand.
In case you don’t know, each year, Bethel budgets money for “Church Outreach.” For the June, 2017- May, 2018 year, we have budgeted a total of $4,500, of which $1,000 is under the pastor’s discretion. This means I have to say No to most requests for monetary help, even when callers seem to have reached a dead-end in their efforts.
Something else I almost always ask local callers who are in need is, “Do you-all have food at this time ?” If the answer is No, first I make sure that they know about the E.A.U.S. food pantry. The social worker at E.A.U.S. is authorized to give boxes of food to families on an emergency basis. If even that will not be fast enough, I have on a few occasions taken them some canned goods that I keep at church: soup, ravioli, peanut butter, and so forth.
Which brings me to the subject of peanut butter. During 2011, the Bethel Deacons learned that the E.A.U.S. food pantry was getting stretched thin—sometimes E.A.U.S. barely had enough to give a box of food to every qualified applicant. Complicating the shortage situation even more was the fact that, when generous people contributed various kinds of non-perishable foods at random, the food pantry ended up with an excess of various “odds and ends,” but not enough of some basic food groups. It was suggested that organizations who regularly give food begin to specialize. For example, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Junior Order specializes in canned fruit. One church in Elkton buys canned soups by the case to donate. The Bethel Deacons settled on peanut butter. It’s one of those basic things that one can buy anywhere; it’s nutritious; and a family can eat it without cooking… say, if their electricity is turned off….
This month (November), at the EAUS monthly food distribution, two hundred and ninety-five (295) households from the 22827 ZIP Code area, (with proof of low income) received food— including peanut butter.
Bethel’s November, 2017 donation of peanut butter was 67 jars, 110 lbs.. Praise the Lord !
In previous years, we at Bethel focused on gathering food for the E.A.U.S. food pantry on a few special occasions such as the “Souper Bowl of Caring” in February. But we know that hunger is happening in our community year-round… so if we’re shopping for our family’s groceries and we can afford to buy an extra jar or two of peanut butter, we’ll just do it— we’ll just do-nate it.
We do not recommend that you risk your family’s well-being in order to donate. However, as followers of Jesus Christ, we invite you to think of him when you have an opportunity to feed someone who is hungry.
Restore us, O God;
let Your face shine,
that we may be saved.