This month we’d like to highlight the work of Lutheran Church of the Master in Phoenix, Arizona who began partnering with St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in April 2013.
The food program at Lutheran Church of the Master is run entirely by volunteers who distribute food on the 3rd Friday of every month. They have a sign up sheet at our church each month for members to sign up to volunteer and also partner with Life In Christ Lutheran Church, located around 75th Ave and Thunderbird, in recruiting volunteers.
Altogether they have about 20-25 individuals helping make the food program possible each month. The average age of each volunteer? 68 years young. Each month they look forward to volunteering and serve the community with lots of joy. Many of the volunteers arrive as early as 6:15am to start setting up the tables and bagging produce.
Lutheran Church of the Master also has a wonderful partnership with their local Safeway at 7th St. and Thunderbird. One volunteer will go to the store and borrow shopping carts for pantry clients to use and then returns them after the distribution. It is a wonderful way to involve volunteers so everyone feels a part of the process. This particular volunteer has health issues but insists on having these carts for the people in need. This makes it easier for clients to take and transport the food to their vehicles. The church has men and women in the parking lot to assist and get the carts back for the next shoppers in line. Overall, it is wonderful to see all the volunteers coming together to help out the community.
The church has a very efficient system of having the clients sign in and get in line. They have produce and other food items laid out nicely on the tables and have volunteers at each to let them know what is in the pre-bagged packages and how many of each item they can take. Next are the bread/pastry volunteers, which “are incredible”. These volunteers have all the breads/buns breakfast items all neatly displayed by product type and clearly tell the clients how many of each they can take. This all makes the line run smoothly and efficiently.
The church runs a collection of plastic grocery bags so they have bags that are easy to open and fill with produce each month. More volunteers will come prior to the distribution to lay out the bags in boxes to make them easy to store and access each month for the distribution.
They also offer free blood pressure checks each month- courtesy of two nurses who also volunteer with the food pantry. These nurses have also referred clients who needed medical help.
Overall, the volunteers find the joy in hosting a food distribution and the clients really enjoy the setup and how every volunteer makes them feel welcome. We are so happy to have wonderful partners, like Lutheran Church of the Master, all across Arizona. Thank you for all of the work that you and your volunteers do help serve the food-insecure in our state.