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Within minutes of stepping off the van, you can feel both the energy of the devoted volunteers in Graham County and the tremendous depth of the need they are trying to meet. We parked across the street as the line of vehicles waiting for boxes of food was already spilling out of the parking lot. Eric (the minister of the Methodist church up the hill) was working with a group that had already unloaded the truck from Manna. Following introductions and a prayer, most of our group worked alongside them to distribute the food to boxes and later to those folks in the cars and trucks that waited patiently for the chance to pull forward. The boxes were bright with beautiful vegetables, and City Bakery had supplied their wonderful bread. We were told that the first car held an elderly couple who are both dealing with cancer. Their handicapped son recently moved back home, and the combined household income totals $600 a month. One pickup truck was driven by a woman who was there to take 30 boxes back to her remote community.

In the kitchen Michelle (the minister of the nondenominational church that welcomed us) had taken a day off from her other job to prepare a spaghetti dinner to distribute that evening. She explained that what had started as 30 or so meals distributed a week had ballooned during Covid to sometimes over 200. Her church kitchen has been overwhelmed, but thanks to a grant, a larger, separate one is currently under construction on the property to meet their outreach needs. She greatly appreciated extra hands in the kitchen. It was remarkable to see that over the course of the day people kept coming by to help as they were able. One lady had just returned from an out-of-town family emergency. Another had a few hours before she had to attend a funeral. When we left at 3:00 to return to Asheville, the meal was almost fully prepared, and we knew that Michelle would have help as she boxed and distributed it to the people that would once again line up outside.

The people that we met yesterday are impressive in their dedication. They very much appreciate our willingness to help them meet the needs of the poor in Graham County. They have been collaborative and creative in their approach to outreach ministry, and I believe there are tremendous opportunities for us to work together. Doing so yesterday was a blessing, and our group was universally pleased and positive about our experience.

Anne Bleynat


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