MIDDLEBURG – Jean White didn’t complain after she stood in line for nearly three hours to get a box of food last Thursday.
Time is the one thing White has in abundance. She can’t say the same about the amount of food in her cupboard and refrigerator.
“This is the difference between eating and starving,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d do if they weren’t here to help.”
Here is Evangel Temple Assembly of God at 5040 County Road 218 in Middleburg. What the church and other nonprofit groups do is give away food every Thursday. Lots of food.
“On an average week, we will give away food to about 150 people,” said Heather Wesche, director of the Food Pantry and Clothes Closet. “For a lot of people, it’s the only way they’ll have something to eat.”
Evangel works in conjunction with Feeding Northeast Florida, Farm Share and Waste Not Want Not to make sure everyone has enough to eat. Residents often arrive early and patiently wait to pour through a selection of foods. Nobody leaves empty-handed.
“If it weren’t for the churches, I wouldn’t be able to eat,” said Middleburg’s Cindy Thies. “This is a blessing for me, especially for the last two years. I’ve been fighting for my disability and I have to eat on $80 a month in food stamps. That doesn’t buy a lot.”
Residents have a huge assortment of choices, ranging from whole pork loins, to frozen chicken, cereal, canned goods and fresh fruits and vegetables. Last Thursday’s giveaway was the first since the church used a $15,000 grant from Clay Electric to build a permanent structure to store and serve food and used clothes. With more than 300 families served, it also was the largest turnout in the program’s history.
White said she shares her food with a needy neighbor.
“You spread the kindness,” she said. “We split everything. I like to share. What we can’t buy, we get here.”
Clotilde Prospere also shares. The Haitian from Orange Park said getting food at Evangel means she doesn’t have to chose between paying her electric bill or eating.
“This is very important to me,” she said. “When you spend money on food, it’s a lot. What I get here, I share.”
The Food Pantry and Clothes Closet is open every Thursday from 1-3 p.m. Residents are encouraged to bring boxes and a wagon or collapsible cart.
“Because of this, I know I will eat on Thanksgiving,” White said.
And every other day, as well.