Tend the Spark, Carry the Flame

Manna on Meridian: It Takes a Congregation (or 5 congregations!)

By Carolyn Pardue

The number of changes  individuals have had to adapt to this past year, makes it even more meaningful that so many have been ‘willing and able’ to maintain and help others.   Not only maintain, but improve and thrive and extend our reach.  Thanks to all the financial and foodstuff contributions to Manna on Meridian,  the member congregations  have continued to serve ever-increasing numbers of families facing hunger.  From the  “widow’s mite” to the people who turned over their stimulus checks to Manna, every single dollar is appreciated.  And every food/toiletry donation from every person is put to use.  Thanks to people adding an extra can of fruit or a new toothbrush or soap, Manna has been able to provide additional items to help take financial burden off of our recipients.  For some of us, it is difficult to believe that a $1 bar of soap is a financial burden – it truly can be.   Every month, thanks to your generosity (and that of the 5 member churches), volunteers are able to add items to people’s supplies, increasing the likelihood their family can make it financially through another month.

In 2020,  the five member congregations of Manna donated enough that Manna provided 2000 bags of groceries, produce, and bread.   That does not include the extra produce! To each of you who donate(d) financially– thank you.  To those who contribute foodstuffs  – thank you.

This year UUCT members have taken a more visible role in the work of Manna.  On the Friday before distribution, UUCT is represented by 4-5 volunteers every month working in the preparation area bagging produce.  3-4 UUCT members also work to help with distribution on Saturday.  A very special shout out to the 8 or so UUCT volunteers who met (masked and distanced)  on the veranda monthly during the summer and prepared double bags in which the food is packaged.  To me, it was not only a great gift  of volunteering for Manna, but the gift of community – seeing and talking with people we have not been able to be with at church.  It was a win in many many ways.

Manna during Covid has taken a different form.  Prior to Covid,  Manna Saturday was a community event.  Volunteers prepared coffee and snacks for visitors, there was a clothing give away, sometimes the health department came to provide services or information, there was a group of  Manna recipients who came and worked in the garden at Faith, and of course there was the food distribution.

In these days of COVID,  recipients do not get out of their cars.   Volunteers (usually from an identified church each month) take the bags of staples to the cars. It will be good to get back to the time when that sense of community returns.

While we are not fond of many changes required by COVID, with regard to volunteering for Manna, COVID has also helped develop some closer relationships between member congregations.  It has introduced our own congregation to more of the inside workings of this small but mighty food pantry.  It has kept us going by helping us help others.   In my opinion, COVID has strengthened our own congregation’s sense of community, not just with Manna but with other programs and activities that are now taking center stage for so many reasons.  I am ready for the horribleness and inconveniences of COVID to go away – but I do hope we maintain that expanded sense of community.