Church group, food ser­vices team up to feed home­less

Lo­cal church, restau­rants join forces to feed the home­less

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

A Wal­dorf church is on a mis­sion to feed fam­i­lies in need with frozen food that is wrapped up and ready to go.

Holy Tem­ple Cross Min­istries Inc. has part- nered with var­i­ous lo­cal restau­rants and con­ve­nience stores to give away free food to the home­less ev­ery Wed­nes­day.

The min­istry be­gan its out­reach un­der the Food Do­na­tion Con­nec­tion har­vest pro­gram back in March 2015. Ac­cord­ing to Food Do­na­tion Con­nec­tion, hunger re­lief agen­cies and food re­cov- ery groups want to see more restau­rants stop dis­card­ing food and start do­nat­ing it.

The har­vest pro­gram at Holy Tem­ple Cross Min­istries is run by Dea­con Jerry Head, who be­lieves that food is just one of the many ways to help indi- vid­u­als who are ex­peri- enc­ing hard times. Lo­cal restau­rants are on board with the group’s mis­sion.

“I no­ticed my brother do­ing a sim­i­lar type of out- reach at his own church in Capi­tol Heights,” Head said. “One thing that we try to do at out church here in Wal­dorf is make sure we have an out­reach min­istry be­cause out- reach is re­ally just ex­tend­ing your love and knowl- edge of God to other peo­ple. My brother said I should get into the food min­istry, so I started out with one pick up from a lo­cal Star­bucks and then got other busi­nesses in- volved.”

“Giv­ing food away and ex­tend­ing a hand out to peo­ple is im­por­tant to my hus­band and I,” said his wife, Chris­tine. “The Lord laid it on our hearts to do.”

Church ad­min­is­tra­tor Florence Blacken said the meals in­clude dif­fer­ent types of WaWa sand­wiches, rice, noo­dles, steak, spaghetti sauce, sausages and var­i­ous types of pas- ta. She said the meals are frozen so any vis­i­tor can take it with them, let the food thaw and then heat it up be­fore eat­ing.

“Vis­i­tors only need to sign in to re­ceive food,” Blacken said. “We don’t in­ves­ti­gate peo­ple and we don’t judge their sit­u­a­tion.”

Jerry said once the har­vest pro­gram was ap­proved by his pas­tor, Ge­orge Allen Blacken Sr., he be­gan go­ing out early on Wed­nes­day morn­ings to pick up pack­aged and frozen left­over food do­nated by lo­cal restau­rants. The food is then brought back to the church’s loca- tion in Wal­dorf and dis­trib­uted from 1 to 1:30 p.m.

“It was near and dear to my heart to do the out- reach be­cause I’m a re­tired teacher and I would see chil­dren that would come to school hun­gry,” Blacken said. “It helps the fam­i­lies be­cause we have sin­gle par­ents and fami- lies that have six chil­dren, and you want to be able to feed those chil­dren and fam­i­lies.”

Head said as of late, the har­vest pro­gram has at least eight peo­ple who come reg­u­larly with an ad­di­tional three or four new vis­i­tors com­ing to pick up food weekly.

“The peo­ple be­gin to talk to you and we let peo­ple know that we are here to serve,” he said. “Peo­ple are thank­ful and grate­ful for the pro­gram. They come in and hug you and you feel the love.”

While the church orga- niza­tion plans to reach more than 100 fam­i­lies, the busi­nesses are hop­ing to help ex­pand the pro­gram in the fu­ture. Lo­cal busi­nesses con­tribut­ing food in­clude WaWa in White Plains and Car- rabba’s Ital­ian Grill in Wal­dorf.

“We’ve been do­ing this about two years now and our lo­ca­tion was a test store on that pro­gram,” said Mike Man­gia­capre, WaWa’s White Plains man­ager. “Now all of the WaWas are par­tic­i­pat­ing. The com­pany wanted to do this in­stead of throw­ing away food. We make so much food and then if you don’t sell it, what else can you do ex­cept throw it away like any other restau­rant would do?”

Man­gia­capre said the prod­ucts are made and then taken off the rack af- ter about 20 min­utes to an hour, depend­ing on what the prod­uct is. He said his staff now freezes the food and then do­nates it to the church, which has been happy to re­ceive the do­na­tions. Al Wyn­ter, as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager of Carrabba’s in Wal­dorf, said he en­joys work­ing with Holy Tem­ple Cross Min­istries ev­ery Wed­nes­day be­cause the dea­con is such a po­lite gen­tle­man with a good heart.

“We are a com­mu­nity restau­rant and we like to give back to the com­mu­nity and help in any other way we can help,” Wyn­ter said. “Times are dif­fi­cult all over and we al­ways try to build re­la­tion­ships in our com­mu­nity. We don’t look at it from a ben­e­fi­cial stand­point. We just look at it as four or five peo­ple can a have a meal the next day in­stead of us throw­ing it out. It’s some­thing pos­i­tive.”

Wyn­ter said the restau­rant makes sure that the do­nated food is safe, re­us­able and edi­ble.

“It’s a plea­sure work­ing with them and I look for­ward to work­ing with them for many more years to come,” Wyn­ter said.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the har­vest pro­gram, call Florence Blacken at 301-632-9707, or go to www.holytem­ple­cross­min­istries.com.

STAFF PHOTO BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

On Dec. 7, Holy Tem­ple Cross Min­istries Inc. vol­un­teers, church ad­min­is­tra­tor Florence Blacken, Dea­con Jerry Head and his wife Chris­tine Head dis­trib­ute food do­nated by WaWa in White Plains and Carrabba’s in Wal­dorf as part of the Food Do­na­tion Con­nec­tion har­vest pro­gram.

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