HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It is a season of giving, but for many across the Tennessee Valley, they’re also dealing with a season of need.
“It’s really hard to see people in need and not be emotional,” said Daughters of Zion Ministries Founder and President Toni Savage.
The organization partnered with Union Chapel Missionary Baptist Church to host one of the church’s largest pandemic food giveaways yet.
Half an hour before Union Chapel Missionary Baptist Church started their Thanksgiving food box giveaway at 8 a.m., hundreds of cars lined the parking lot waiting for their turn. Food pantry coordinator Cassandra Pitts says organizers had less than 350 boxes to give away.
“Before eight o’clock, we already had the 325 parked, so we just started. There was nothing else you could do,” Pitts said. “I’ve just been praying ‘Lord, please multiply, please multiply our boxes. Just overwhelming.'”
Daughters of Zion Ministries was awarded a state grant during the pandemic, and saw an opportunity to help contribute to this nearly $10,000 project; a decision Savage is grateful to have made, especially after news broke of the Food Bank of North Alabama’s temporary closure after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.
“As you can see, the need is great and far exceeded, because of the Food Bank closing, so we anticipate having to pour additional funding into this,” Savage said.
They gave food kept in the church’s food pantry to feed as many additional people as they could. Before 9 a.m., they had to start turning people away. Pitts guesses at one point there were about 500 cars waiting for food.
The long lines did not stop fellow leaders within the church from letting the community know somebody cares about them. Union Chapel Christian Academy’s Principal, Anita Weathers, said she has her group hand-delivering Thanksgiving boxes to seniors in the community.
“They need to know that they’re loved and in this hard time, it’s very important that we embrace our seniors and that they know that they’re not alone,” Weathers said.
“We thought with so many organizations and other churches doing their free Thanksgiving giveaway, that we would probably have the same number that we’ve had the past several months. We had no idea we’d have this number of cars,” Pitts said.
And while staff is devastated they had to turn cars away, they would tell the families in those cars to wait until Wednesday when they’re co-hosting a grocery giveaway with Alabama A&M.
The free grocery giveaway will be at 315 Winchester Road, 10:30 a.m.-noon. and is hosted by the church and Alabama A&M’s Alabama Extension.