Group feeds giving spirit
The line began forming outside the Interfaith Food Ministry building about half an hour before the doors opened at 10 a.m. As the buzz of conversation increased outside, the hum of activity increased inside. Another day of providing for the basic needs of the residents of Nevada County was ready to begin.
Sometimes life brings complications that can make the simple act of putting food on the table a daunting task. In 1987, Interfaith Food Ministry began fulfilling the need of providing “daily bread” for people who are having a hard time. To accomplish this mission, the ministry has relied on the contributions of member churches, service clubs, civic organizations and individuals to supply food, money and volunteer hours.
Reach/Connect Pastor John Fairchild of Twin Cities Church, one of the member churches, says, “Interfaith Food Ministries meets a very real need here in western Nevada County, and as a church we are excited to be able to obey Jesus’ teaching to ‘feed the hungry’ in such an effective way. We feel like we share not only food with them but also the love of Jesus in a very tangible way.”
Brad Bahnsen, Director of Caring Ministries and church administrator at Calvary Bible Church, says that it’s very clear that the Bible compels churches to help provide for the needs of the hungry. “It’s a hard thing for one church to accomplish that alone. We’re very pleased to work with IFM. It provides and gives a resource that we can’t provide on our own. They make sure it’s done in an appropriate way.”
Bernie Delgado and Lon Durrand are co-presidents. Aided in their endeavors by 16 board members – one from each member church – 600 families receive food each week. Right now, about 2,500 families are registered to receive assistance.
Delgado says, “I was first drawn to the Interfaith Food Ministry because it was so ecumenical. Churches of all faiths participate.”
Because of such consistent support, the ministry has grown. In 1991, a new facility was needed. Long-time volunteer Bill Barger was instrumental in getting the money to purchase the current building. He’s still around, with about 450 other volunteers from 16 supporting churches. About $1.3 million worth of goods is given away annually.
How does the ministry screen its recipients? Each one is required to fill out a card that asks for a name, Social Security number, number of people in the home, and an address. They also ask if the client would like a visit from a church person of a specific denomination.
For this small amount of information, recipients receive staples once a month and perishables once a week. The staple bags are filled with items donated by churches, the community and from the postal workers’ drive that occurs in October. Any shortages are made up with purchased items.
Perishables are donated daily from local markets. In addition, Raley’s Food for Families program donates regularly. The ministry also purchases surplus food items from the Placer County Food Bank in Roseville.
There didn’t seem to be a shortage of anything the day I visited. About 22 volunteers busily stacked and packaged apples, artichokes, potatoes, red bell peppers, mushrooms, deviled eggs, green beans, lots of bakery items like cookies and lemon muffins, and assorted canned goods. The “meats of the day” were salmon and hot dogs. It was a regular mini-market.
What impressed me was the easy camaraderie among the volunteers. When I asked volunteers Susan and Eloise (one’s a Catholic and one’s a Mormon) why they do this, they jokingly replied, “We’re here to avoid the law.” These ladies were having too much fun to be working. The room was filled with a happy hubbub that seemed more like a social gathering than a hodgepodge of churchgoers doing good.
Recipients come from all walks of life. Most are a little down on their luck, some only requiring help for a short time. One lady told me that she’s a single mom just finishing up her degree. As soon as she graduates in June and she can work a regular job, she won’t need the food ministry’s services any longer.
The Interfaith Food Ministry supplied Hope House with food the day I was there, too. That’s 10 women and three children who received sustenance for another week.
Clients don’t just take and never give back, either. Co-president Delgado has received numerous thank-you notes from recipients. Their notes say things like, “That small canned ham was perfect – so was the avocado. Glad to get those Kaiser rolls.” “That roasted chicken was so good! I hoped for one to stuff so this was a nice surprise.” “Didn’t think I’d be here for free food at this time of life but I am so lucky – it’s almost my 92nd birthday. Thanks again.”
Interviewers, distributors, supervisors, floaters, drivers, and of course board members and officers all keep this nonprofit ticking like a fine old clock. Delgado says they never have too many volunteers, so if you’re looking for a worthwhile place to spend your time, come on down. It was refreshing to see all the different denominations holding hands in unity as they prayed for the people they were going to serve.
Delgado says they always want to “treat clients with respect and a smile on our faces.” That’s probably why the people don’t mind waiting for the doors to open. It’s definitely worth the wait.”
Pam Fortner is a freelance writer in Grass Valley. Her Nonprofit Spotlight column appears once a month. Contact her at email@example.com
INTERFAITH FOOD MINISTRY
Address: 551 Whiting St., Grass Valley
Distribution Hours: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Membership of churches
• First Baptist, Grass Valley
• First Baptist, Nevada City
• Calvary Bible Church
• Christian Science
• Emmanuel Episcopal
• Grace Lutheran
• Peace Lutheran
• United Methodist, Grass Valley
• Religious Science
• Seventh Day Adventist, Grass Valley
• Sierra Pines Methodist
• Sierra Presbyterian
• St. Canice Catholic
• St. Patrick’s Catholic
• Twin Cities
• Unitarian Universalist
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