Florence Christian Church served more than 400 families in July with its free food programs alone.
In March 2020, Florence Christian Church supplied 97 households with free food. Since then, the numbers have steadily increased, reaching a high of 449 halfway through July of this year.
“There are a lot of people who are really hurting,” said Melissa Stephens, outreach minister and communications coordinator for the church. “We have people waiting in line for over two hours to receive food.”
Under its Feeding the Multitudes Ministries program, Florence Christian offers a public food pantry and a fresh food distribution. The pantry is available 24/7 and guests are encouraged to take whatever they need. The food distribution program is available at 2:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month.
“We are so grateful,” said a woman waiting in line on a recent Tuesday. “Our cabinets were bare.”
While the fresh produce and bread are donated, the church is using funds from a grant to purchase protein-based items for both programs.
The WellCare grant also funds the operating expenses for the church’s shower ministry. The program provides access to showers and laundry facilities. Guests are also provided with free hygiene products and snacks. The service is available Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“This ministry is an important reminder that not everyone has access to things that a lot of us take for granted,” said WellCare Plan President and CEO Corey Ewing. “We appreciate the work Florence Christian Church is doing for its community and we are proud to help fund their efforts.”
According to the church, the showers are often used by people after an all-night shift, before job interviews, or during a persistently rainy season.
“This ministry allows people to sit with others who are living the same struggles and share their stories,” Stephens said. “They find renewed energy to trudge back out into the unfriendly world of seeking food and shelter.”
Debbie, a woman who is currently homeless and living in her vehicle, regularly seeks the church’s services and is appreciative of its outreach.
“Today, I know I don’t have to be hungry,” she said.