Mission Spotlight: Small Church, Large Impact
By Pam Presnall
For over 15 years, the First Presbyterian Church of Orange has operated a small food pantry as a service to those in the community struggling with food insecurity. For most of those years, the program depended on donations of non-perishable food items from congregation members. When available, volunteers from the congregation and community volunteers have “shopped” at both Second Harvest and the Orange County Food Bank for nonperishable food, as well as toiletries, diapers, and other basic needs.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we had a dilemma. Most of our retired volunteers who tirelessly staffed the pantry every Wednesday were in the “high risk” category. We also didn’t know if the shutdown orders applied to us, so we weren’t sure we could even continue operating. But knowing the economic toll to come, our Mission Committee decided to restructure the staffing and with volunteers from our congregation, as well as from the community, we have remained operational.
A ministry that normally served 13 households a week, is now providing food to over 65 every Wednesday. And, due to the increased demand, in early May, we added a second distribution for two hours on Sundays, serving between 35 and 45 households.
Additionally, with the availability of produce, diary, eggs, and frozen meat from the two food banks in Orange County we have significantly increased the volume of food we distribute. Instead of simply providing a bag of nonperishables, we provide milk, cheese, bags of potatoes, onions and apples, and other fresh food.
A $5,000 federal CARES Act grant has enabled us to purchase additional fruit, as well as bread, tortillas, and other food items when the food banks cannot provide a variety of options. And, thanks to generous financial donations, and our church members who help do the shopping, we now offer toiletries and household items (e.g., laundry detergent, dish soap, bleach).
The First Presbyterian Church of Orange is a small congregation, and its members miss in-person worship. But just because our services are online, it doesn’t mean we have stopped being the church. This once small ministry has brought the congregation together, unified in providing tangible relief to our struggling neighbors.