Sometimes a blessing comes in the nick of time.
That was the case for Build a Bridge Community Pantry in Vincent four days before Thanksgiving. Members of the Plant Gaston Chapter of the Alabama Power Service Organization (APSO) showed up with a truckload of food just in time to feed needy families for the holidays.
Jodi Webb and Tabetha Lemonds delivered 1,320 pounds of food donated by employees at Plant Gaston in Wilsonville. Every day, Nov. 6-17, many Gaston employees left gifts of food at a trailer at the plant gates – allowing contact-free giving – and donated money for food.
As Lemonds dropped the truck’s tailgate and flipped back the bed liner, Wallis could hardly believe her eyes. The Ford 250 was filled to nearly overflowing with canned vegetables, fruit and meats. There was a huge selection of dry goods, such as pasta, beans, instant mashed potatoes, cereals, pancake mix and other shelf-stable items.
Overcome with emotion, Wallis began to cry – tears of joy flowed down her face.
“You’re not going to believe what a blessing you are,” Wallis told Webb and Lemonds. “When you see what our shelves look like, you’ll understand why I feel this way.
“It makes me very emotional,” added Wallis, who has served at the pantry since it opened during the pandemic. “We actually were able to feed 332 people for the holiday with the donation given by Gaston APSO. Without APSO, that couldn’t have happened. Our shelves had been empty.”
Since April 23, the pantry has fed more than 11,000 people.
A moment made a miracle
Webb and Lemonds didn’t expect employees’ gifts to fill several empty shelves at the pantry. As the three women began to unload the food, seven ministry members arrived to help. Lemonds and Webb worked along with them for four hours, carrying in groceries, stocking and organizing food.
“We came at that right time to fill the shelves,” said Webb, interim president of Gaston APSO. She said helping Build a Bridge Community Pantry was an easy decision.
“We always send out questions to our board about local groups, churches and ministries that need help,” said Webb, the 2018 recipient of APSO’s prestigious Patsy Topazi Leadership Award. “There’s so many people that need help.
Webb, who has served in Gaston APSO for 14 years, said the pandemic has presented difficulties because their members “like to go and do for people.”
Plant Gaston employees are givers behind the scenes
Gaston employees answered the call to help in a big way, said Lemonds, president-elect of Gaston APSO. Dropping off food at the plant’s trailer – a contact-free point – allowed employees to safely take part in the project while social distancing.
“Everybody here is so generous with giving,” said Lemonds, administrative assistant in Fossil Generation. “Our employees gave food and a contribution of $1,150, which included a gift from our chapter.”
“I’m a couponer, so I went to Publix to buy food for the pantry,” Lemonds said, with a laugh. “A friend and I got all the best items. I bought one item and got one free, too. It was multiple carloads of groceries. I was filling up my Jeep every day with groceries, then putting it all in our truck. It was a process. I was really excited.”
Before she and Webb delivered the items, Lemonds drove her truck onto Plant Gaston’s scales for weighing coal trucks. The duo was amazed to see the groceries’ weigh in at 1,320 pounds.
The project still brings a smile to their faces: “It hits home that all your hard work pays off,” Lemonds said.
Wallis agreed that every little bit “makes a tremendous difference.”
“We’ve got grandparents coming through the pantry saying, ‘I’m taking care of my three grandchildren, now I’ve got six people in my house,’” she said. “These people genuinely need the support. There are parents that are working who can’t afford to feed their children.
“We’re hearing a lot of these stories,” said Wallis, a member of Revival Center Church for seven years. “It’s heartbreaking. When we began this ministry, I said, ‘We can’t change the world, but we have the resources to help one person.’ Partnering with groups like Gaston APSO and individual contributors shows that people are stopping their day-to-day interactions to help other people. People do care.”
(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)