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Food ministry helps feed the homeless

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Ken Waring pulls a can of yellow squash out of a pressure cooker on Aug. 6 at Trinity Lutheran Church.

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BY JENNY WHITE
Telegram Correspondent

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Rev. Alice Johnson-Curl and her congregation at Trinity Lutheran Church started with the best-laid plans for their With God We Can Ministry.

With God We Can Ministry began in 2013. They collect produce from the Farmers Market, prep it, can it and distribute it to United Community Ministries in Rocky Mount.

“The project stemmed from a time when our congregation convened an intentional time of discernment for our church and asked God through prayers, ‘What do you want us to do, here, where we are?’” Johnson-Curl said. “From there we interacted with the community, forged and strengthened relationships and we were directed to this ministry — which is being the hands and feet of Jesus, feeding those in need.”

Originally, about 15 Trinity Lutheran church members teamed up with growers and sellers at the Farmers Market on Peachtree Street, gathered leftover produce on Saturday afternoons and delivered it to the McDonald Street Soup Kitchen.

Trinity Lutheran volunteers soon learned from the soup kitchen staff that not all the produce could be used immediately and much was being thrown out. The kitchen did not have freezers to store the fresh food in and though they were using as much as they could, they were throwing out over half of the donated produce.

The congregation prayed some more and the idea to expand the food ministry to include canning was implemented. With God We Can Ministry was born.

Each Saturday from mid-June through the fall, volunteers gather produce at the Farmers Market. Any produce that can’t be canned is taken directly to the soup kitchen to be used immediately.

The rest of the produce collected is brought to the church on Winstead Avenue, where ministry volunteers begin canning on Monday morning. The produce is prepared as necessary — cleaned, diced, chopped, blanched or cooked — and canned in glass jars.

Johnson-Curl said jars are donated by the church or other people who have heard about the ministry. The church maintains an inventory of 1,450 jars a year but is looking to accept more jars to expand the ministry. On average, about 60 cans a week are produced.

Johnson-Curl blesses the jars and they’re delivered to United Community Ministries where the majority is used in the Soup Kitchen. Some go to the Bassett Center for homeless families. Trinity Lutheran Church estimates about 8,500 pounds of fruits and vegetables have been canned and about 825 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to the Soup Kitchen in the past six years.

Interim Executive Director of United Community Ministries Linda Brinson said the donated food from the With God We Can ministry is more than just a donation.

“These donations are more than just food. We are aware of the work and love that goes into this project and really appreciate Trinity Lutheran Church and its members. It means a lot to all of us at United Community Ministries,” Brinson said.

Johnson-Curl said she and the volunteers experience an amazing joy by being faithful doing this ministry.

“While this ministry can be demanding, labor intensive and stressful, it’s also beautiful in its simplicity,” Johnson-Curl said. “We listened, we acted, we follow Christ’s instructions for us to love our brothers and sisters. That is not complicated. And the reward — how our church has grown closer in our holy relationship with God — is the best gift of all.”

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