(Town Crier photo/Yvonne Hernandez)
The Angel Food Ministry, sponsored by Refuge General Baptist Church in Lake City, has been serving the area since February 2006. During its first year it has continued to grow.
Kim Mann, one of the volunteers who was instrumental in getting it started in the area said the program started with 42 units of food being distributed the first month. In December 587 units were distributed. Refuge averages a little over 400 units a month.
Mann said the ministry is open to anyone. There are no applications to be filled out or income limitations.
"A lady in our church, Kelly Fry, had heard about the ministry while visiting in Clinton," Mann said. "We did some research and found out about an Angel Food Ministry in Conway. We also discovered a church in Jonesboro that was involved in the ministry and we visited, watched and learned before going out on our own."
Angel Food Ministries is a non-profit, non-denominational organization providing grocery relief to communities throughout the United States. The program began in 1994 with 34 families in Monroe, Ga, and has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of families a month across 32 states.
Generally, one unit of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week or a single person for a month. The Angel Food's groceries are sold in a quantity that can fit into a medium-sized box at $25 per unit. Each month's menu is different consisting of both fresh and frozen items. The same food items will cost an average of $42 to $78 at retail. In addition to a different monthly $25 menus, three specialty boxes such as steaks, chicken and pork may be purchased at $18 each. The food is of good quality
Mann said Refuge Church has 40-65 volunteers from the church and community who work once a month to help distribute the food.
Orders are turned in by the first Sunday of each month and picked on the third Saturday.
"The food is brought in by the bulk by a semi trailer truck," Mann said. "We start at 5 a.m. on pick-up day dividing the pre-paid orders. It has been a great ministry. We get a blessing and it helps others physically and spiritually. It is one way we can let people know we care about them.
"We have church people of all ages helping on pick-up day. We have children from the fifth grade to senior citizens working together. It is a good fellowship and a good way to help people."
Mann said some churches pick up several orders to be distributed in their community as well as individual pick-ups. The food is picked up between 9-11 a.m. on the third Saturday of each month.
Karen Eldridge, Refuge church secretary, turns in the orders each month. The groceries can be paid for by cash, money orders, checks or Food Stamps.
"The program is very rewarding and we hope to keep it going and continue to grow throughout the years," Mann said. "A lot of paperwork is involved along with the physical work getting the food ready for pick-up, but it is very rewarding. One person could not do it. Thank goodness we have a lot of helpers willing to help which makes things go easier. I think everyone who works on the project would agree it is a labor of love."
Customers are asked by the host-site to bring their own boxes or baskets to be filled.
Anyone wanting more information about Angel Food Ministries at Refuge or to get a menu may call Karen at (870) 237-4486.
Menus change monthly but a few of the items on the March menu include hamburger steaks, breaded frying chicken, Philly Steak Portions, popcorn chicken, hot dogs, fries, vegetables, canned fruit, peanut butter, waffles, and a dessert item.