By Tracy Riggs
Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist
A multi-church drive-thru food drive held May 9 resulted in more than 27,000 pounds of food donated to Birmingham’s Christian Service Mission and other local food pantries.
Cars started lining up early at each of the four participating churches — First Baptist Church, Birmingham; First Baptist Church, Trussville; Hunter Street Baptist Church and Shades Mountain Baptist Church — and the event provided a much-needed morale boost after weeks of sheltering in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, said Tim Wheat, pastor of missional living at Shades Mountain, who first had the idea for the drive-thru food collection.
“As I shared [the idea] with our executive staff team, I thought it would accomplish two purposes. First, it would provide [food] for hundreds of families in the Birmingham area, and second it would provide a chance to ‘see’ real live people again instead of just on the screen,” Wheat said. “That would be like a morale boost, an emotional shot in the arm in these days of isolation and shelter in place. I just thought it would be fun to see, wave and say hi to a lot of people again.”
Then Wheat decided to expand the effort and invite other churches to participate. Once the other churches were onboard, the work started. All four churches announced the food drive on their social media platforms, including instructions that the food would be unloaded by volunteers and COVID-19 safety precautions would be taken.
Emails were sent out and announcements made during virtual worship services. First Baptist Birmingham used its daily 8 a.m. encouragement video on Facebook to promote the event. And the churches enlisted volunteers and church staff for the day of the event, as well as the necessary supplies — masks, gloves and sanitizer — they would need. The result was thousands of pounds in food donations, along with donations of other supplies as well.
Tracy Hipps, CSM executive director, said he continues to be amazed at how God provides.
“The food that we collected today is a tool, a grand tool for this pandemic to help serve and communicate the gospel and love of Jesus Christ,” Hipps said. “Our strategy is to work through the local church. So, like today, the local church gets to win. We’ll turn this product around and give it to local churches to help serve their people.”
More than food
The food donations continue God’s provision during the pandemic, Hipps said. Even before COVID-19 hit, God had provided masks, gloves and sanitizer that had been sitting in the warehouse just waiting to be used, he said. About six months ago, CVS Pharmacy started donating non-food items, such as hygiene and cleaning supplies. Recently, Birmingham-based produce wholesaler Forest Wood Farms committed to sending fresh fruits and vegetables they can’t sell to CSM.
All of this means that when CSM provides boxes of food for seniors or families, more than just random basics can be included, Hipps said. The aim is to provide at least a week of meals for those who need help, along with personal hygiene, paper goods and cleaning supplies as needed, all with the goal of having gospel conversations and follow up that isn’t usually found in food pantries, Hipps said.
“We are called by God to serve the people of God. It’s all about Him. It’s His grand story that He’s telling, and we’re just a small part of [it],” Hipps said.
Hipps expects the need for assistance will rise as stimulus money runs out and home pantries run bare. The churches will continue to take canned and boxed food donations, he said, and monetary donations are useful too. To donate, call the church office for details about drop offs. To give directly to the CSM or to volunteer, visit csmission.org.
To view photos of all four locations of the May 9 food drive, click here.