Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry is a place where hungry families can get food to sustain them. Pastor Robert "Brother Bob" Evans and his host of hardy volunteers broke ground Friday on the next stage of an expansion that will allow the organization to feed even more people.
"This phase two of the project," Evans said. "We have raised $25,000 of the $300,000 we need to complete the job."
Evans said the warehouse expansion that is being built will allow the ministry to house more food and feed more people in need.
"We get tractor trailers full of food, and we are renting six locations around town to store it. With this new building, we will have more places on site to store the food," he said.
Steve Wheley is a Joseph Storehouse volunteer and the contractor who is donating his services to get the new warehouse built.
"We have to turn down food because we have no storage," he said. "We feed 400 to 600 families a month now and we have to turn down requests from other counties."
Evans is hoping news that the expansion is moving forward will inspire people to donate to the cause.
"If we could get the next $275,000 we could go all the way by Christmas, before the bad weather," he added. "We see a scarcity of food coming down the pike."
The ceremony to mark the beginning of Phase Two of the project was attended by Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto and Rep. Mark Pody, all of whom support the work Evans is doing to feed the hungry.
"This ministry is one of the best I've ever seen," said Pody. "I'm 100 percent behind it. I feel confident that they spend their money wisely. I'm in favor of letting people decide what organization they want to put money in. Let the citizens decide who they want to support rather than the government."
It is such donations that allow Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry to distribute food at no charge to needy families in Wilson County on the last Saturday of each month. Recipients are chosen on a case by case basis, and are people who find themselves in tough situations.
The new 96,000 sq. feet warehouse will store fresh, frozen, canned and box goods and will help reduce operating costs because the ministry will no longer have to pay storage fees until the food is given away. It will also allow the organization to accept food donated to the ministry that they have had to turn down in the past.
Emergencies, job losses, health issues, lapses in government assistance and other unforeseen circumstances force families to seek assistance from the ministry.
On Oct. 27, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, the storehouse will open its doors to distribute food to qualified individuals and families. Anyone who is elderly, disabled, handicapped and/or has special needs should come on the Thursday before the last Saturday of each month in order to receive additional assistance.
"On Monday, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays we give out food to people who come here for the first time," said Evans. "Then they get put into the system and can come on the last Saturday of each month."
The ministry is a life saver for many people in the county and is always looking for volunteers and donations, but this year the need is dire. Due to the rising cost of food and gas. The still sputtering economy has not only brought on higher prices, but also an increase in people and families who need help.
Evans said that people on fixed incomes say they don't know what they would do without us. The average income is about $600 a month for the people the ministry helps. He also noted that people who come to the storehouse get a big wheelbarrow of food not a small box.
Recipients are given as much food as the ministry can afford. That includes plenty of meat, something many people in dire straits have stopped even looking at in grocery stores, because the cost is just too high.
In order to receive food, recipients must be able to prove current residency in Wilson County with two forms of official documentation (such as Social Security card and a Tennessee driver's license) and proof of income for the past 12 months. Upon approval by the Joseph's Storehouse staff, they will receive an ID card, which is valid for six months. The storehouse is located at 1960 Tater Peeler Rd. in Lebanon.
The ministry always welcomes individual volunteers to help recipients get the food to their cars, but they are especially needed for Thursday's distribution, because many of the usual student helpers are in school. They ask that groups call in advance before showing up at the storehouse to avoid chaos.
With the need so great, many people get to the storehouse the day before the give away, not just to be the first in line for food assistance, but also to receive spiritual guidance.
"They spend the night out there in here in their cars," Evans said. "They start lining up at about 7:30 a.m. and they get in about 8:30 a.m."
Now Evans prays to get the new warehouse up and running so the ministry can reach out to more people in need.
"Let's get the thing built," Evans said.
For more information about Joseph's Storehouse Food Ministry, or to make a donation, visit josephsstorehousefoodministry.com or call 615-453-5777.
Staff writer Mary Hinds may be reached at 444-3952, ext. 45 or firstname.lastname@example.org.