Orchard Church: Magnolia’s mobile pantry meets increased needs
May 2, 2023
A quick internet search for the population of Magnolia, Del. yields varying results ranging from 235 to 295 people – under 300 people. So how does one little church in town – Orchard Church – provide food for more than 300 families each month? Generous hearts, dedicated, committed volunteers, community support . . . and an ongoing partnership with the Food Bank of Delaware.
Magnolia is a food desert; other than a gas station/ convenience store, there is no grocery store that is within walking distance; a Food Lion on Del. 10 – the nearest supermarket – is 7.9 miles away.
This church is one of the Food Bank’s Hunger Relief Partners; like many partners, its delivery system changed with the COVID-19 pandemic. They adapted and expanded, and here’s their story:
“Before COVID-19,” said Susi Ayers, “we served hot meals two times a month to about 30-35 people. And we had a closet of non-food items.” COVID hit, and serving hot meals wasn’t an option. “It was Trish’s (Chambers) idea to provide food in the driveway. We didn’t skip a beat the entire time.”
Every other week, volunteers distributed boxes of shelf stable food along with backpacks from the Food Bank’s Backpack program through a drive-through semi-circle around the red brick church on the town’s main street.
The program grew to serve 60-70 families, and with the growth the church decided to officially qualify as a Food Bank partner. “We were feeding 200 people every two weeks,” said Anne Albiez, who maintains 6-inch thick binders filled with pages to capture data – and need.
In addition, the volunteers set up a closet to provide emergency clothes and non-food items where clients may “shop” once a month. “It’s like a free thrift store,” said Ayers.
These volunteers are seeing 12-14 new families every two weeks; in April, they served 362 families in April. While those families may not live within the town’s official limits, they represent a multi-cultural community in Kent County. Most households, Albiez said, have at least one working adult, but many have large families.
“This church is blessed. The word is out, and weather is not a factor. We are out in the rain,” said Chambers, and people appreciate that. “We have never cancelled because of the weather.”
This core committee praises the volunteers who make things happen. “We have a list of volunteers – mostly seniors age 63-82. Sometimes we are lucky to have help from service members from Dover Air Force Base,” said Chambers.
Commitment and organization are key to the operation. “We have a routine. We create balanced meal bags, and we responded to the community, but without the Food Bank this would not be possible,” added Chambers.
The church’s pastor, Rev. Robyn Mast, provides another layer of support. “Sometimes people have problems outside our purview, and we tell Pastor so she can refer them to other agencies.”
Local retailers – including Walmart and Redner’s – also provide support, as do local schools, the post office, and other churches. “Our reputation has spread. The community gives back. It’s a wonderful thing that Orchard can respond,” Chambers added.
“We hear a lot of gratitude,” said Albiez.
Visit www.fbd.org to learn more about our community partners.