Continuing our Food Ministry Safely Through the Pandemic
Even during this time of uncertainty, we have continued serving meals to our community in need and adapting our procedures, from our usual indoor meal, with 80+ people in our dining room, to serving the meal outside, in to-go boxes, since March 17, 2020. Stanley Donaway, passionate leader of Bright Bridge’s Food Ministry for almost five years, wanted to keep serving, while preparing for coronavirus-related challenges, from public health guidelines, to potential scarcity of resources; working with his team for solutions, they have become true community heroes. Volunteer Ben Nolt states, “Right now is when outreach is most needed; I am glad we are able to lend a helping hand.”
Dedicated volunteer Amanda Bean says, “This is one of the few places still offering a hot meal; without it many of our clients wouldn’t know where their next meal was coming from.” With other local feeding programs at a stand-still, Bright Bridge has expanded serving hours to Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, and served more people. Throughout March an April, the number of people served daily increased to about 140-175 people. Stanley sees many new people, grateful we are still serving, saying, “Wow, we can’t believe you are out here doing this – awesome!”
Adhering to Public Health Guidelines and Increasing Sanitation
For public health, Stanley has kept current with guidelines and increased sanitation. Recent Center for Disease Control guidelines encourage all to avoid large gatherings of people and practice social distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others), and older adults with pre-existing health conditions to stay home. Reducing crowding, the to-go line allows clients to take food off the premises, and only volunteers and employees are allowed inside the building. For social distancing, most volunteers remain in the kitchen, away from clients, and maintain space among themselves, especially older volunteers; some older volunteers stay home. “Myself and Amanda are the only people exposed to the clients,” Stanley explains. For sanitation, hand sanitizer dispensers were installed at every entrance and in hallways; volunteers wear latex gloves, with vinyl over, changing them often; volunteers disinfect all tables and items with which the public had contact, spray with Lysol or bleach all handles, light switches, and surfaces, and mop the floors with bleach water. We are doing all we can to protect those volunteering with us or visiting us.
We Inspire an Attitude of Care and Acceptance
Knowing we are serving vulnerable people, Stanley also wants to help alleviate obstacles to their understanding and preventing the coronavirus, by sharing accurate information. “People coming to receive food generally are not people who watch the news, or who are concerned with health or hygiene issues,” he says, “A lot of them are addicts. I was one of those people 12 years ago; I was a hard core junkie. I came here to get something to eat, and someone showed me God’s love.” Determined to show the same care to others, Stanley plans to create handouts for clients with reliable information.
Growth and Support for our Food Ministry in Recent Months
As we have continued reaching out to the most needy individuals, children, and families in our community during this critical time, we have seen a great increase in the number of people we serve, both on a daily, and a monthly basis. We were able to serve 4,743 meals to hungry people in June, and 4,986 in July. The following month, in August, our total number of meals served increased to 5,672. From the day in March when we first adapted our procedures for coronavirus safety through the end of August, we served 25,339 meals to hungry people in our community. This month, on the Friday after Hurricane Sally, we were even able to serve 389 meals to people in need, which is more than we have served on any single day besides Thanksgiving! We consider ourselves blessed to be able to keep feeding the community in times like these, addressing the health of those less fortunate, in even greater numbers than before.
Notably, we would not be able to carry out our Food Ministry in all these circumstances without our wonderful and faithful supporters. To name a few of those who have aided our Food Ministry through these trying times, The United Methodist Committee on Relief of Global Ministries, Inc. (UMCOR), Perdido Bay United Methodist Church (UMC), and Lillian UMC have been quite instrumental in our recent Food Ministry successes. Throughout the month of July, we were fortunate enough to receive a grant from UMCOR to pay for all our groceries that month. This grant was awarded to us specifically for responding to the needs of under-resourced people in our community at the time of the coronavirus. In addition to this monetary support from UMCOR, we have also received plenty of in-kind and volunteer support in recent months from Perdido Bay UMC and Lillian UMC. Perdido Bay UMC and their Seekers Class have helped us out this month by preparing coleslaw, to go with a dinner of pork roast and mashed potatoes, for 300 people. Lillian UMC was generous enough to cook meals at their church and bring them to Bright Bridge Ministries for distribution, the Friday after Hurricane Sally, when we served 389 meals. We are so grateful to have this amazing network of supporters who will come through for us when our community needs our ministries the most, and we hope to continue growing this network to include even more people who care about our community’s needs – people like you.
Donate to Bright Bridge Ministries
Please consider making a donation to Bright Bridge Ministries at this critical time as we serve more people than ever before, as the need for our services has increased since the pandemic began. You may donate online at https://brightbridgeministries.org/donate/.
You may specify “Food Ministry” in the designation on the online form to donate specifically to our Food Ministry. You may also write a check payable to:
Bright Bridge Ministries
2600 W. Strong Street
Pensacola FL, 32505
You may write “Food Ministry” in the “FOR” line of the check to donate specifically to our Food Ministry.