By Phil Draper and John Schachinger
Despite social distancing, lockdowns, and online meetings, one essential ministry remains personal—Community Services food distribution programs. Throughout Arizona, food banks and local church food programs have had to retool to maintain the safety of their volunteers as well as provide service to their communities. Church members have stepped up to offer mercy and hope as well as food and resources during this crisis.
Several large centers have transitioned to drive-through centers. Shirley Latullipe from the Prescott church pioneered drive-through food banks after reviewing a video from the Portland Community Center. Since then, several of our larger centers have adopted this format as well. Each car is met by local pastors; in Prescott they are met by Pastor Tony Jasper.
Sue Kennedy at our Camp Verde center is blessed to have National Guard troops as volunteers, as the numbers continue at over 400 people each Wednesday. The town of Camp Verde also chipped in to help as they transitioned into a drive-through food bank. Volunteers from the local Sheriff’s Department have helped direct the long lines of traffic each Wednesday morning. The community has embraced Camp Verde’s Community Service.
Beacon Light’s food bank in Phoenix has switched to weekdays as well as to a drive-through format. Cheryl Wells, Erica Handson, and their crew have set up a renewed ministry with dedicated volunteers ready to help their community through this crisis. With the support of their church, they have an ideal set-up, with room to grow.
One of our newest centers has become one of Kingman’s major foodbanks. Bowie Teft and her crew quickly transitioned to a drive-through center. Each Tuesday and Sunday their parking lot is full as they serve 200 to 300 families with the help of regular, committed volunteers.
Verona Coffy and her staff at Bethel church in Phoenix continue to operate Ruth’s Pantry—a ministry of compassion begun by one of their members. It has become a corner of mercy in the neighborhood, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
Each Wednesday morning, Susan Lighthall and a crew of 20 serve 50 to 60 people. As a pivotal community resource, they were receiving calls early on from their neighbors, who were concerned if they were going to be able to open due to closings and shelter-in-place orders.
Tucson’s Sharon church hosts a fast-growing Community Service Center that distributes food twice weekly. Teri Epps and her crew are expanding the center as it continues to offer more than food each week. Love and Christ’s presence are shared freely.
In the little town of Benson, Sandra Obergh and her crew are a large presence as one of the few mercy ministries in town that offers food and local help, which grows out of the church’s love for their community.
Monument Valley’s Transitions Pantry is open two days a week. This food pantry is housed in a building that was donated by the Nevada-Utah Conference to be used for this purpose. The headquarters for this mission work is in the town of Kayenta. They keep a small pantry at the mission for emergencies. We thank the Nevada-Utah Conference for being concerned about the conditions that exist in this area of the Navajo Reservation. This is a trying time, and we are pleased to work together for the best of the mission.
Arizona Conference President Ed Keyes is grateful for these compassionate members. “These faithful, dedicated volunteers are the hands and feet of Jesus as they reach men and women with physical food as well as spiritual healing through Him!”