Feeding the Need

    Co-op employees volunteer for the food pantry of Ecumenical Ministries, Inc.

    Last spring, two employees from Baldwin EMC’s South Baldwin line crew spent the day helping provide energy to local families. No, not electrical energy, but grocery items for those needing a little help after facing unexpected and extreme financial hardship. Volunteering at Ecumenical Ministries of Baldwin County (EMI), their efforts were a result of the annual Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive, a national event organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers.

    “There was a lot more to it than I imagined,” said Baldwin EMC Crew Chief Buddy Miller. “We took all those donations off the truck and then organized and boxed them for the [EMI] food pantry. I didn’t have any idea of the number of people in need in this community. It really opened my eyes to the reality of it.”

    A social service agency, EMI has two locations, in Fairhope and Foley, each with a food pantry and emergency aid center. Their programs also include home repair, prescription assistance, Meals on Wheels and Christmas Sharing. South Baldwin Director Dana Jepsen said the organization relies on the success of food drives and the generosity of area partners to serve the need in Baldwin County.

    “If a family is experiencing a crisis and can’t pay their utility bills, chances are they can’t afford groceries, either,” Jepsen said. “Our food pantry program allows us to provide a week’s worth of meals (including breakfast, lunch and dinner), to feed every member of a family. While we may offer food for an additional week or two if necessary, our purpose is not to serve as a maintenance food bank, but to provide for these families until they can get back on their feet.”

    And EMI is there to help families through that process, too.

    “Emergencies can be anything from a significant car repair to major medical expenses to a job loss,” Jepsen said. “If we can make a repair to a roof to prevent a family from losing their home, we are there to lend a hand to help them through that crisis. But ultimately we want them to be responsible and accountable.”

    “It felt really good knowing you were giving back to other families who are going through a hard time,” said Baldwin EMC Apprentice II Kyle Nespor. “Not everyone can always afford groceries, and having enough food on the table is something we might take for granted. It was crazy to see just how much food was donated for this drive. There’s a lot of generosity there and it was neat to see how far EMI could make that stretch.”

    In this particular drive, Jepsen said the EMI South Baldwin office collected close to 4,000 pounds of food, which is enough to sustain the organization through the end of the summer.

    “We don’t have to purchase any of our food, we are completely supported by the community,” Jepsen said. “We also rely heavily on our volunteers. In fact, we only have two staff members at our South Baldwin office, so we need volunteers to help with everything from filing to helping families with the check-in process to delivering for Meals on Wheels. I am a firm believer in the saying, ‘many hands make light work,’ and that’s definitely the case for us.”

    For more information on Ecumenical Ministries of Baldwin County (EMI), visit www.baldwinemi.org or follow them on Facebook.