Calera First wants no needy children
By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist
As a single mom, Stephanie Latta knows the struggle of feeding a family on a limited budget and it prompted her to initiate Calera First United Methodist’s Feed My Sheep food pantry.
Beverly Smith, Shannon Day, Kendra Reveal and Joy Hopson helped coordinate the pantry.
Smith said Amazing Grace Worship Center, who also has a food pantry, helped get them started.
The pantry meets the church’s outreach objective.
“Two years ago, we embraced God’s directive for ‘no more needy children’ in Calera,” Smith said. “Stephanie’s vision for a food pantry went hand-in-hand with this. It was obvious to begin reaching children through school.”
They first built relationships with teachers. Teachers were lifted up in prayer and encouraged. They communicated through email about needs in the classrooms. The church only knew the need; names were kept confidential.
Calera First began Backpack Buddies, a program that targets kids who receive free and reduced lunch prices, once relationships were formed.
Each week the church packed shelf stable, ready-to-eat weekend meals for 48 Calera Elementary and Middle students who qualified. They also supplied coats, shoes, school supplies and paid utility bills.
Food is purchased from The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Homewood. Since the food bank is a United Way agency, Smith said there are guidelines they must follow.
“The food bank gives us food from two different sources,” Smith said. “One is U.S.D.A food. In order to be eligible to receive U.S.D.A. food, you have to meet certain requirements. If someone is eligible for food stamps or WIC, they probably qualify. The other is food donated by grocery stores, which can go to anybody who has a need.”
Smith’s 8-year-old son, Wyatt, helped prepare food boxes because he wants to do God’s work.
“We want to feed hungry families who can’t afford to buy this stuff,” he said. “We have about 2 tons of food today, so we have a good shot at accomplishing our goal. God wants us to do this.”
The pantry is open the first Saturday of every month from 8-10 a.m. Photo ID and proof of residence is required, such as a phone or utility bill. Call Calera First for more information, 668-0951.
Mollie Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.