Food giveaway a 48-year tradition for church

By: W. Curt Vincent - Editor

LAURINBURG — Like a yard sale that promises numerous treasures, the crowd outside Star of Bethlehem Church on South Caledonia Road began to swell long before the doors opened for the monthly food giveaway on Thursday morning.

Those inside, however, were ready.

In the hours and even days before Thursday’s event, a crew of volunteers under the direction of Willa McNeal packed grocery bags with food items from the Southern Pines Food Bank that included such things as soups, ham, chicken, turkey, penut butter, macaroni, canned vegetables, canned fruit and beans — all of it government-allocated.

It’s a process that’s been followed religiously since 1970.

“We do this every first Thursday of the month — rain, sleet or snow,” said Hazel McLean, the owner of Star of Bethlehem Church. “And we do it because these are our people. They are in real need.

“Most of them have a hard time making ends meet and a lot of times they cut back on food,” she added. “We just want to help everyone we can — especially the elderly and those with children.”

The monthly, hour-long food giveaway usually serves about 143 families in the area, which often means more than 400 people benefit.

“But we still don’t make a big dent in the number of people who really need this,” McLean said. “There are too many people out there who just don’t bother to come for one reason or another.”

For some in the community — specifically those who are shut-ins — the food giveaway each month will be brought to them. McLean and at least two other volunteers wioll take bags of food and deliver them once the giveaway at the church is finished.

Each of those who come to get food bag are registered with the church and must sign in each month before receiving their food. Once they do, each individual gets a bag of meats and a bag of miscellaneous items. Families will receive additional bags.

And then there’s the special ticket.

“We give everyone who comes a ticket with a number, and when they get their food bags they can go around to another door and get a special bag — as long as they last,” McNeal explained.

In that bag are items like chips, cookies and cakes — all donated by Big Lots.

“It’s the sweet stuff,” McNeal said. “They really like that bag, especially if they have children.”

Once the food giveaway is completed each month, anything left over is put aside for those families in need who come to the church and request it.

“This is something we have loved doing for all these years,” McLean said. “We want to be a blessing to everyone who comes.”

One of those waiting patiently in line und Thursday morning’s searing sun was Lewis McNeill.

“This really helps with whatever they are able to give out,” he said. “A lot of these people here have a lot less than others, so this is a big deal for them.”

The next food giveaway at Star of Bethlehem Church will be Thursday, Sept. 6, starting at 8 a.m.

W. Curt Vincent can be reached at 910-506-3023 or [email protected]

W. Curt Vincent