Calera First lends a helping hand

Calera First United Methodist members pack food boxes for needy families. (contributed)

Calera First United Methodist members pack food boxes for needy families. (contributed)

By MOLLIE BROWN / Community Columnist

One year ago, Calera First United Methodist Church began distributing food to those in need. Pantry coordinator Stephanie Latta said the ministry, Feed My Sheep, has grown significantly since its beginning.

“When we first started we were only serving two or three families a month, a thousand pounds of food lasted two months” Latta said. “Now we distribute around two thousand pounds of food a month to fifty or sixty families and normally add five to ten people each month.”

Food is purchased for .13/lb from The Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Homewood. The church budgets for the ministry, receives donations and holds canned food drives. Latta is reaching out to other churches, organizations and schools to build relationships for a concerted effort to feed the needy.

“We give out some frozen meat, for Christmas and Thanksgiving we gave out smoked hams and turkeys,” Latta said. “I’ve been working with a processor in Alabaster who is donating deer meat and I plan to visit the farmers markets this summer to ask vendors for donations.”

Latta, Joy Hopson, Eleanna Burke and Kathy Broadhead open the food pantry from 8-10 a.m. the first Saturday of every month. Photo ID and proof of residence is required, such as a phone or utility bill. The pantry is open to residents within Shelby County.

“We want to reach out to those in need in communities beyond Calera,” Latta said. “The church who helped us get started, Amazing Grace, recently closed its pantry. We want people they were serving to know they can come us to us if they need to.”

Backpack Buddies, a program that targets kids who receive free and reduced lunch prices, is another ministry of Calera First. Each week the church packs shelf stable, ready-to-eat weekend meals for Calera Elementary and Middle students who qualify. The ministry includes supplying coats, shoes, school supplies and helping with utility bills.

For more information about the food pantry call Latta at 478-2052 or the church at 668-0951.