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Hillcrest Baptist Church in Galax is providing grocery relief through Angel Food Ministries to everyone bogged down by the rising costs of groceries and other bills during these tough economic times.
People from all income levels gather at Hillcrest Baptist each month — some waiting an hour before the door opens to pick up their supply of food.
Once inside, shoppers only have to travel from table to table to fill up their home-brought medium-sized boxes, coolers, laundry baskets and bags with the meats, fruits, vegetables, desserts and other staples offered through Angel Food Ministries.
The program began in 1994 with 34 families in Monroe, Ga., and has grown to serve hundreds of thousands of families every month across 35 states. Hillcrest Baptist Church in Galax is the only one in the area that participates in the program. Mary Spivey and a couple of other church members suggested that Hillcrest take on a food ministry for the region.
“I know a lot of people in the area that need food and need help that missed the boat on social services because they don't qualify,” said Spivey. “And some don't want help of that kind because they want to take care of their own needs. In the process, we can show the love of God by helping people.”
Each month's menu is different and consists of both fresh and frozen items.
The best thing about the nationwide program that helps 500,000 families each month is that it's for everybody. There are no applications to fill out or qualifications to meet. And each box — worth about $70 in name-brand groceries — only costs the consumer $30, said James Calley, pastor of Hillcrest.
According to the Angel Food Ministries Web site, one unit of food assists in feeding a family of four for about one week, or a single senior citizen for almost a month. There are no second-hand items, no damaged or out-dated goods, no dented cans without labels, no day-old breads and no produce that is almost too ripe.
“We're offering a hand up, not a handout,” said Hillcrest Angel Food Ministries volunteer Melanie Summey. “We help people purchase food efficiently, and it's not about income levels. We're helping people help themselves.”
Since the Galax church started this service in September, community volunteers travel to Wesleyan Church in Mount Airy, N.C., each month to pack a truck full of boxes of food provided through Angel Food Ministries. Hillcrest has worked closely with the Mount Airy church, having to undergo several hours of training there to bring the service to Galax.
Last weekend, Jeff Hedge of the Galax community heard about Angel Food Ministries, called up Calley and offered to drive down to Mount Airy to fill his trailer with 233 boxes.
“Volunteers like Jeff are a big help. Here, we're like a drop-off point for people, but we have to go to the church in Mount Airy, which is like our grocery store, to pick up the food and bring it here,” said Calley. “And it's the quality and quantity of food that makes it worth it.”
Calley said that if the church receives 400 additional orders, it will no longer need to travel to Mount Airy to pick up the food. Instead, a trailer will be brought here.
Even though the church began this program just four short months ago, the number of Angel Food Ministries consumers has increased each month. In fact, Hillcrest, as of Dec. 13, has already served 808 families, with most being repeats.
Thirty church and community volunteers sit at stations to help people gather their groceries. But with the increase in program participants, Calley said the church may have to add helpers.
Participant Judy Diehl of Galax said she saves nearly $50-60 on groceries each month for a household that includes she and her husband. Diehl shows off a box filled with items such as a dozen eggs, pie, Salisbury steaks, hotdogs, pineapple, macaroni and cheese, meats, rice and chicken patties.
“You get a lot of good quality food,” said Diehl. “You can't ask for more when you're getting all of this for only $30 — and we still have some food left from last month.”
Customer Joni Bing of Hillsville, who brought along her four children to Angel Food Ministries, said that the program helps her save at least $100 a month.
Calley, who also participates in the program, said his wife went to the grocery store and didn't have to buy much this month because of what Angel Food Ministries already has to offer. “When she goes to the store, it seems she buys two to three bags of nothing for $60,” said Calley. “We're hoping that this program will help people and help everyone stretch their dollars.”
Calley said he receives phone calls each week about the program because the word has already begun to spread throughout the Twin County region. “They always say 'thank you for doing this,'” said Calley. “And it's also good that you can pick up this amount of food within less than half the time you'd spend at the grocery store.”
For each box of food that is purchased by Hillcrest, it will receive $1 from Angel Food Ministries. This will go towards its benevolent fund to assist the community.
GROCERY SHOPPER'S HEAVEN
Orders must be placed in advance. They will be taken at Hillcrest Fellowship Hall on Jan. 8 from 2 p.m.-7 p.m. and Jan. 9 from 5 p.m.-7 p.m.
Angel Food Ministries participates in the U.S. Food Stamp program, using the Off-Line Food Stamp Voucher system. Cash and food stamps can be taken at Hillcrest.
Also, orders can be placed at Galyean's Garage at 1200 S. Main St., Galax, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with cash only.
Food can also be ordered online for $1 at www.angelfoodministries.com.
This month's pickup date is Jan. 17 from 10:30 a.m.- noon.
For more information about Angel Food Ministries, visit the Web site at www.angelfoodministries.com or call Hillcrest Baptist Church at 236-5855.
Hillcrest Baptist Church is on South Main Street in the old Lowe's Foods location.
Speciality items and senior menus are also available.
January's menu includes:
• ribeye steak
• 4 lb. chicken leg quarters
• 1.5 lb. beef patties
• 18 oz. cheese-filled manicotti
• 2 lb. pork rib strips
• 1 lb. chicken breast fajita strips
• 1 lb. ground turkey
• 1 lb. broccoli
• 7 oz. chicken flavored rice and vermicelli
• 1 lb. peas
• 32 oz. 2% shelf stable milk
• 8 oz. blueberry muffin mix
• 12 ct. white corn tortillas
• 1 lb. pinto beans
• dozen eggs
• oatmeal variety box (2 regular, 2 maple brown sugar and 2 apple cinnamon)