The stigma and shame of hunger can keep many people from seeking the help they need. One Rutherford County food pantry is working to change that.
“It’s hard to take that first step but when they do, we are here to give them food, clothing, and comfort,” said Meichelle Gibson, co-leader of the Destiny Center Church’s Evangelism Department. She and her colleague Sheila Wallace, Director of Operations, help run the church’s food pantry – a Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee Partner Agency – in Murfreesboro.
ANSWERING THE CALL FOR HELP
The church’s food pantry opened its doors in February 2015 in response to numerous requests from the community for help.
“People would call the church and they would be really struggling,” said Sheila. “We just knew we needed to create a space where they could come and feel welcome.”
Now for the past six years, on the second and fourth Sunday of each month, anyone in need can come to the back of Destiny Center Church and receive the food they need.
“We used to have people come into the building where we could talk and pray together,” said Meichelle. “Now, with COVID-19, we have switched to a drive thru model but still take the time to talk to each client and give them the special attention they deserve.”
ENDING THE STIGMA
In addition to the food pantry, the church also has a “boutique” where clients can go shopping for clothes and shoes.
“We want them to feel like it’s an experience,” said Meichelle. “We want them to feel welcome. We want to treat them like the kings and queens they are and have them leave feeling uplifted.”
Meichelle and Sheila said that taking these extra steps to help those in need of their services feel more like friends than clients, has helped reduce the stigma within their church and their community when it comes to needing food assistance.
“We serve people from all walks of life, different races, different ages, different situations,” said Sheila. “They know when they arrive, they will be taken care of, judgement-free.”
“So much of it is having a familiar face too,” said Meichelle. “For our regulars, and we have quite of a bit of regulars, we know their names and about their families. It’s more like a friendly conversation that just a transaction. That’s what I love about what we are doing.”