BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Every Wednesday at Asbury United Methodist you will find volunteers offering food, and support, to those in need. The church just unveiled their new food pantry facility. Director Irene O'Neill says it's about more than food.
"It's amazing how you can help people in other ways, besides what your intended plan was. We started off with wanting to make sure people have food, but it's more wide reaching than that," says O'Neill.
The church first started a food pantry about seven years ago, but it was run out of a trailer off campus, with limited space. O'Neill says the new facility makes it more accessible for the patrons, many of whom are disabled. About 40-50 families are patrons of the pantry right now. O'Neill says anyone is welcome.
"Every week we have somebody new. We are very giving. It's not our place to judge. If someone needs food and is willing to come and get it then we are willing to give it," says O'Neill. "People need to understand that this zip code 35242 is not exempt from poverty and need. There are many affluent areas in this community, but there are people who are in great need."
The food pantry is stocked through donations, from the church members and the community.
"I will come in on any given day, and there is food just left by people. I have no idea where it comes from. All I can do is stay thank you through my prayers," says O'Neill.
Shelves are stocked with everything from canned goods and dry pastas, to condiments, snacks, and even pet food. There are two large refrigerators with frozen bread. During the summer, there's a large variety of fresh produce too, thanks to a partnership with a local famers market.
"We are very blessed during the summer months to coordinated during lee branch farmers market. Volunteers man a tent there, and people who go to the market to get produce for themselves will then donate extras to the pantry," says O'Neill.
The stock changes every week, and patrons are invited to come every two weeks, and choose the items that they need most. Volunteers help them make selections and bag their items, and are there to offer a comforting ear and a prayer. O'Neill says that can be just as important.
"It's easy to give someone a can of peas," says O'Neill. "Sit and listening to what somebody's problems are, because usually if they are coming there are a lot more issues going on in their life," says O'Neill.
Volunteers with work the church and non profit organizations to direct patrons to other resources that can help them as well.
"One of the things we asked them are what are other ways we can help empower them to help empower themselves. We give them information and resources where they might be able to find a job, or if they need clothing or help with bills," says O'Neill.
To find out what kind of donations are needed, or if you are in need of help, click here.