By Virginia Coombs
Last year, the Willows church’s Adventist Community Services program served about 20 people once a month, but God had a different plan for them. Now, its weekly food bank serves an average of 570 people each month!
For the past decade, people in the small city of Willows, located in Glenn County, relied on the community’s main food bank operated by the First Southern Baptist Church. When that congregation could no longer keep the bank open, they asked ACS Director Arliene Yankee if the Adventist church would take over.
With a 17-member congregation of mostly senior citizens and only eight ACS volunteers, the church was struggling to maintain its facilities, not to mention its outreach program. The church board reviewed the responsibility, added work, and expense. After much prayer, they felt compelled to answer the call to serve, and they stepped out in faith, believing God had a plan.
They were right! When the Baptist pastor came to explain their new responsibilities, the ACS volunteers learned that they would inherit the food bank’s refrigerators, freezers, shelving, and more than $20,000 in a bank account. In addition, many community churches, businesses, schools, and individuals continue to regularly donate money and food.
“I am so impressed by the number of people that the church can help every week. They are all so kind and they make me feel special.”
The new Willows ACS Food Bank opened in December 2019, not long before the pandemic hit. Since then it has been able to safely serve the community. “The greatest joy has been getting to know, care, and pray for the individuals,” said church member Bessie Mikeworth. “Some ask especially to be prayed for.”
Community members express gratitude for both the food and the volunteers. “I very much appreciate the lifesaving work the food bank does,” said beneficiary Mel Dodge. “I would starve without their supplies. This is truly a blessing from God.”
“I am so impressed by the number of people that the church can help every week,” said another beneficiary, Joan Femino. “They are all so kind and they make me feel special.”
“The people are wonderful and pray with you if you want,” added community member Darlene Willber.
The ministry has invigorated the congregation. “I never thought that our little group could handle this large responsibility, but the Good Lord knew,” said Yankee. “It is a blessing to me to greet these people who come to our food bank and pray with them. This is the only evangelistic outreach to the community that our small church has. We feel very blessed.”