Feed­ing the hun­gry in a time of thanks­giv­ing

Will­ing Helpers Food Pantry do­ing its part this hol­i­day sea­son

The Covington News - - RELIGION - By Colleen Capes Jack­son

The Will­ing Helpers Food Pantry at Solid Rock Bap­tist Church has been serv­ing the Lord and the com­mu­nity for 10 years. Lo­cated at 8111 Brown Bridge Road in Cov­ing­ton, this min­istry serves 75-100 fam­i­lies each week on Tues­day, Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Thurs­day night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The food pantry is fi­nan­cially sup­ported by five lo­cal churches: Solid Rock Bap­tist, Ox­ford Bap­tist, Eastridge, Ju­lia Porter United Methodist, Trin­ity Pres­by­te­rian and Zion Bap­tist. Other area churches and ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions of­fer pe­ri­odic sup­port. A ser­vice club at Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School called GEMS, Girls En­gaged in Mean­ing­ful Ser­vice, or­ga­nized and led by teach­ers Whit­ney Jack­son and Jes­sica Jones, do­nated ap­prox­i­mately 2,000 canned goods this week.

Kroger stores lo­cated on Salem and Kirk­land roads and on U.S. High­way 278 do­nate daily. The Publix on Salem and Brown Bridge roads and Bell’s Gro­cery do­nate on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

The pantry works with twelve dif­fer­ent min­istries from Dou­glasville, Stock­bridge, McDonough and Gainesville.

“We have two trucks that run,” said Jack Van­derzwart, the food pantry’s di­rec­tor. “His Har­vest House in Gainesville gets a trailer ev­ery two weeks, and they feed about ten dif­fer­ent min­istries of which we are the largest. We buy a dou­ble sec­tion that ranges from four to 12 pal­lets.”

The min­istry has a con­tact at the Farmer’s Mar­ket that do­nates fruit and veg­eta­bles. A bak­ery in Ma­ri­etta do­nates breads and sweets on Tues­day morn­ing. “We get enough bread to last a week,” said Van­derzwart.

Born in Toledo, Ohio, Van­derzwart moved to At­lanta in 1976 and grad­u­ated from The Art In­sti­tute of At­lanta with a de­gree in Vis­ual Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Van­derzwart’s grand­fa­ther was a Methodist preacher.

“I turned away from the Lord when I was eigh­teen,” he said. “A vis­i­ta­tion team vis­ited my home when I was 45 years old,” he added. “I gave my life to the Lord there in my liv­ing room, and I have not been the same since.”

Van­derzwart said his fam­ily moved to Cov­ing­ton nine years ago and must have vis­ited 20-25 churches in a year. He told his wife Con­nie, daugh­ter Alysha and son Ja­cob that each fam­ily mem­ber would be re­spon­si­ble for pick­ing a church and they would at­tend there for one month be­fore de­cid­ing which church to settle in.

“We came to Solid Rock Bap­tist Church and never left,” he said.

While work­ing at Delta, Van­derzwart vol­un­teered at the pantry for four years. “It had crossed my mind that this was some­thing I could do when the kids were out of the house,” he said. “When Delta started go­ing through bank­ruptcy, they be­gan cut­ting back and out­sourced 14 of us to an­other com­pany with the choice to stay or leave af­ter a year.”

Van­derzwart re­tired in 2005 and ac­cepted the po­si­tion as di­rec­tor of the food pantry. Two months later, he went on his first mis­sion trip to Mex­ico.

“The Lord truly hum­bled me there to know how blessed I am — how blessed we are as a peo­ple,” he said. ”You can see pic­tures, but un­less you go, you don’t know what it’s like un­less you see it, smell it, taste it.” The teams vis­ited three vil­lages. “I had seen so much that we take for granted,” he said. “I couldn’t even get out of the van at the third vil­lage — I just stayed in there and cried like a baby.”

The ply­wood churches were built in two and one half days and the team dis­trib­uted food in the vil­lages on the third day.

“The peo­ple would lit­er­ally have ser­vices in them at night while we were still build­ing,” Van­derzwart said. “It was a cathe­dral to them; yet, we were the ones be­ing blessed.”

Since be­com­ing di­rec­tor ,Van­derzwart said that he had be­come aware of many needs in our com­mu­nity.

“There are so many peo­ple that are choos­ing be­tween medicine and util­i­ties or rent and food,” he said. “There are those who have lived in their home for 20 to 30 years, and now re­tired, they don’t have enough money to pay their taxes.”

Van­derzwart said the pantry sends their benev­o­lence to Faith Works to help peo­ple with their util­i­ties.

“They do a much bet­ter job in in­ter­view­ing the peo­ple and in con­tact­ing the util­ity com­pa­nies,“ he added.

Pa­trons who visit the pantry go through a process that usu­ally takes 20 to 30 min­utes. They are asked to give an $8 do­na­tion to sup­ple­ment the op­er­a­tions’ high util­ity and gas ex­penses. Larger fam­i­lies can make a do­na­tion for two boxes that al­lows them to get more food. The first time, they are asked to bring a pic­ture

Over half of the set­tlers died. Gov­er­nor William Brad­ford later re­called, “That which was most sad and lam­en­ta­ble was that in two or three months’ time, half of their com­pany died.”

Spring fi­nally came. And with the warmer weather a turn in their for­tune. On March 16, the Pil­grims were sur­prised when a Na­tive Amer­i­can named Samoset walked right into camp and wel­comed them in bro­ken English. Samoset was from Maine and had learned a few English words from the fish­er­man who came into the har­bors there. He in­formed the Pil­grims that there was an In­dian among the Mas­sas­oit who could speak English.

It took less than a week for Squanto to hear about the Pil­grims and to come visit them for him­self. And there must have been some sense of kin­ship be­tween Squanto and the Pil­grims. He may have felt that he was now able to do for oth­ers what the monks had done for him — teach­ing the Pil­grims how to sur­vive in a new world. Squanto taught the Pil­grims how to hunt, fish, how to plant corn, what na­tive plants were ed­i­ble.

He was able to bro­ker a peace treaty be­tween the Pil­grims and the Na­tive Amer­i­cans that would last for 50 years. Gov­er­nor William Brad­ford called him a “Spe­cial in­stru­ment sent by God for their good be­yond their ex­pec­ta­tions.”

The har­vest of 1621 was abun­dant, and a day of thanks­giv­ing was planned. The nearby Mas­sas­oit peo­ple were in­vited, and there was a three day fes­ti­val of eat­ing and of giv­ing thanks to God. But there prob­a­bly would not have been a Thanks­giv­ing, had there not been this most un­likely of ren­dezvous at Ply­mouth — the des­ti­tute Pil­grims meet­ing the English speak­ing Na­tive Amer­i­can Squanto. As the poet, William Cow­per said, “God moves in mys­te­ri­ous ways, his won­ders to per­form.”

Mandi SInger/The Cov­ing­ton News

Help­ing hand: Will­ing Helpers Food Pantry Di­rec­tor Jack Van­dr­erzwart sorts through food items col­lected and do­nated by the GEMS Club at Vet­eran’s Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School Wed­nes­day at the food pantry fa­cil­ity lo­cated be­hind Solid Rock Bap­tist Church. The do­na­tion re­ceived from the girls club at the lo­cal mid­dle school is the largest sin­gle do­na­tion from a private group in the his­tory of the food pantry.

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