BY SUE SIENS
When we think of people who need food, our first thought is of poverty stricken third world countries. It might surprise you to know that right here in Wilson County, a county with the second highest median family income in the State of Tennessee, there are hundreds of individuals and families who would live in hunger, without the help of an area charity known as Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry.
Joseph’s Storehouse began as an outreach by Pastor Bob Evans and wife Peggy, who recently retired as pastors of Love One Another Church. While pastoring the church in the 1980’s and 90’s, the church would clear out their sanctuary, and fill it with boxes of food for families at Christmastime. During this time, Bob also worked feeding the hungry and did mission work in Haiti.
Pastor Bob says, “It was in 1999 that we began to see the need to feed people in our own community. Peggy and I felt led of the Lord to purchase and distribute food. We went to the grocery store, bought a small amount of food, gave it away, bought more, and gave that away. We were utilizing a building that was behind the church for distribution. Soon the word spread and more people needing food showed up, volunteers started showing up, and opportunities to obtain more food came.”
The food distribution operation has evolved over the years, and today Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry is a well-organized community-based outreach that assists many persons in Wilson County who need food. It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit, 501-c-3 organization, Love One Another Embassy. Recipients of the food must complete an application process that utilizes the USDA’s regulation for income levels. Often applicants are senior citizens or disabled, who rely on a small social security or disability check, which barely covers housing expense. Leaving them to decide between buying food, paying for their medicines, or medical care. People who are homeless, and unemployed also come in need of food.
I will never forget my own experience at Joseph’s Storehouse several years ago, during the worst of the economic downturn. I was meeting with the Evans, and a young man who appeared to be in his thirties knocked on the door. It was on a day that the center would’ve normally been closed. My heart ached as he explained that he was a construction worker, and the company had no work, so their boss let them go. He had been unemployed for several weeks looking for work, leaving him and his wife with two children with little income. Their landlord had evicted them because he couldn’t pay the rent, and they were camping out at a local campground. I could see he was a proud husband and father, his voice broke as he explained their dilemma. He didn’t ask for money, he asked if we knew where he might find work, and said someone told him he might get food at the center for his family. I held back tears until after our meeting, but once in my car, I broke down. I saw firsthand how people could find themselves in situations to need help, especially food, and how Joseph’s Storehouse was providing it.
You might be wondering as I did, “Where does the food come from?” Many stores, restaurants, distribution centers and other food outlets send their overruns, maybe food with damaged or outdated packaging, etc. to Joseph’s Storehouse for distribution. The Evans describe it as miraculous favor. Unlike many food closets in area churches, their warehouse is filled with freezers, enabling the organization to accept large donations and preserve the food, including meat, something many food ministries cannot supply to the needy. Financial donations are also used to purchase food, and the charity partners with other agencies like Second Harvest Food Bank.
Peggy said, “In November and December (2013), more than 1,000 families were provided a supply of food. That’s the months we see the largest need, but we feed on average 500 or more per month every month.” And when she says they “feed” people, it is not a single meal or a small bag of food. Joseph’s Storehouse provides them a wheel barrow full of food and other items, which could sustain the person or family with much of what they need for a month. They estimate they provide more than two million pounds of food, paper goods, and other personal items annually.
The Evans are quick to note that this massive undertaking could not be possible without the many volunteers who regularly work at the center, sorting and organizing food and other items as it comes in, getting it ready for the monthly distribution, then helping to get it into the vehicles on distribution days.
Volunteers also help with office work, mailings, and some offer spiritual support and prayer for those who request it. There are only a few employees, one of whom they say was a “Godsend”, Warehouse Manager, Robert Billings. Said Peggy Evans, “He showed up one day and said he wanted to help us. We had been praying for someone with the skills to manage our warehouse operation, and in walked Robert.”
Billings said, “Somehow, the food just keeps coming. We’ll get a call from someone with food, and I’ll go get it orarrange for transportation. We never know what we are going to get, or when, but at the end of the month, we always have food for distribution.”
The greatest need of Joseph’s Storehouse today is funds to build more warehouse space, so they can accept additional food donations and distribute more food. The request from the community for assistance is everincreasing. The organization has already begun construction on a new 10,000 square foot addition, but approximately $25,000 more dollars are needed to finish and furnish the building. They are committed to remaining debt-free as they complete construction, so financial donations are the best way to assist. The hope is to increase partnerships with area churches on an ongoing basis, because Joseph Storehouse has the facilities and distribution structure, and additional funds for operation expenses like utilities, transportation costs, and food purchases would greatly help serve more of the community.
As Bob Evans summarized the goal, “We want to help all of the hungry people in Wilson County that we can.” Every month, they are fulfilling the scripture Isaiah 58:10, “Feed the hungry! Help those in trouble! Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you shall be as bright as day.” Love One Another Embassy through Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry is true to the organization’s motto: “Ambassadors of love, reaching out with loving arms to hurting people.”
GIVE HELP or GET HELP
If you would like to contact Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry, call (615) 453-5777. Tax deductible donations may be sent to: Love One Another Embassy, Joseph’s Storehouse Food Ministry, 1960 SE Tater Peeler Rd, Lebanon, TN 37090. Volunteers are also welcome. If you know someone in need (Wilson County residents only),the food is distributed on the last Saturday morning of each month, and the Thursday prior to the last Saturday for the disabled. Applications are taken on the food distribution days.
Also visit www.JoeStoreHouse.com.