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Providing Hope
Local churches work together to distribute food baskets

By Jeffry Boatright

Pastor Veronica Thomas is a firm believer in sharing the message of hope and love. She has witnessed the fruits of abundance and the joy of love, but she frequently sees the difficulties of those less fortunate.

According to Thomas, who is the pastor of White Springs Congregational Holiness Church in White Springs, a person or family’s ability to provide food can certainly change rather quickly. “We never know where life is going to take us and when we might be the one in need.” she somberly emphasized.

As Christians who exemplify their love for others, Thomas and the members of the church, along with other local churches and volunteers, work diligently maintaining the spirit of Christmas throughout the year. Together, they provide food baskets for families facing difficult times.

Volunteers organizing the food they give to more than 130 needy people each month. -Photo: Submitted

According to Thomas, the church serves 130-150 families on the fourth Thursday of each month. Additionally, when supplies are available, impromptu distributions are held.

Recognizing that assisting those in need is a role of Christians, Thomas refers to a passage of scripture from Matthew, chapter 25. Quoting verse 35, which states, “For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in,” Thomas emphasized the importance of feeding others physically and spiritually.

Thomas, who has served as the church’s pastor for 17 years, admits the ministry of providing food baskets to so many isn’t always a simple task. However, she quickly acknowledges that God does provide. The food is acquired through several food banks, people from the community and contributions through the United States Post Office, Thomas explained.

White Springs Congregational Holiness Church in White Springs. -Photo: Submitted

The optimistic pastor reiterated that it is at times which are least expected that assistance might come. Just recently, in her search for Christmas turkeys, she had only been able to secure five affordable turkeys for the food baskets. Upon arriving at a food bank, she found another 93 turkeys that were substantially more affordable, but maintained concern about the expense. However, she acted on faith and as the turkeys, along with other items in the baskets were being distributed, two anonymous benefactors contributed enough money to pay for the turkeys. According to Thomas, no one at the time was aware of her concern or even the cost of the turkeys.

Although the White Springs Congregational Holiness Church has found a needed outreach ministry in serving the food baskets, Thomas acknowledges that it would be impossible without the partners they have found in such an endeavor. “We have several churches in the community that contribute,” she stated.

In addition to contributing monetarily, several of the churches provide volunteers. Among those churches are Long Branch United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church of White Springs, First United Methodist Church of White Springs and Suwannee River Church of the Nazarene. Thomas added that the Town of White Springs is also very helpful in their efforts.

A proponent of foreign missions, Thomas also stresses the importance of home missions. “A lot of people fail to recognize that we have kids in the United States who don’t know where their next meal will come from.” It is a situation that neither the minister nor her congregation takes very lightly. Explaining that they helped one family with a child that hadn’t eaten in two days, Thomas exposed a critical need in our own communities.

There are countless testimonies that Thomas and the many volunteers readily share. There are accounts of those who yearn to give back or contribute when they get back on their feet and are able to sustain their own needs. There are stories of young mothers and small children who find hope in the form of a food basket, and narratives of the elderly who are able to eat after unexpected medical bills or costly prescriptions. The reasons given through various accounts to continue such an admirable outreach ministry are endless.

Healthy produce for the needy. -Photo: Submitted

Bags and boxes of various fruits. -Photo: Submitted

Thomas hopes the church and community will be able to increase what they do during the 2017 calendar year. In doing so, she is committed to giving the best quality of food possible to those in need and is also in the process of partnering with another food bank to acquire even more nutritious items to distribute.

Recognizing God’s provisions and the extensive network of support that is already available and in place for the food basket program, Thomas does hope that a refrigerated trailer might be made available this year. “We are in dire need of an air conditioned trailer to transport the food from the food banks to the church,” she disclosed.

While the White Springs Congregational Holiness Church has played a vital role in establishing and developing such an essential ministry in the community through the food baskets, Thomas and her congregation are committed to ministering to the youth and elderly of the community. Every Wednesday night, the church feeds 35-50 children. Many of those children, Thomas says, volunteer to distribute the food baskets each month when they are dispersed.

In addition to serving the 130-150 families each month with food baskets, the food outreach ministry maintains an emergency supply of food products for those with immediate need for food. Thomas urges anyone needing food or who might know of an urgent need to contact her at (386) 984-8875.

Anyone who might think Christmas is over simply hasn’t met Pastor Veronica Thomas. With a giving heart, the support of a loving congregation and a vast network of caring people of all ages and denominations, Pastor Thomas and the White Springs community offer hope when people often need it most.