First United Methodist Church of Graham has always helped its school district. Providing school supplies and clothing for its students is nothing new.
First United Methodist Church is a part of the North Carolina Annual Conference.
But after reading an article about the difficulty of feeding students over the summer, the church had a big idea: Buy the district a food truck.
“What we were doing was already pretty robust. This was next level,” said the Rev. Claire Clyburn.
The campaign launched in early 2020, just a few months before the pandemic was declared a national emergency.
The congregation didn’t let that stop them.
First UMC Graham is a county church with more than 800 members. It is one of many congregations reporting intensified social outreach during the pandemic, according to data from Exploring the Pandemic on Congregations.
The latest report, released Dec. 21, notes the “resilience, creativity and convictions” of U.S. congregations that have allowed them “to better address the needs of their local communities in times of suffering and hardship.”
“I always felt this was a two-fold project,” said Margaret Skulnik, a member of the North Carolina church, “one was to raise money for a food truck, and also to raise awareness about food insecurity in the state.”
Skulnik, a retired nurse and former community college dean, said she sees the world through these lenses and said taking care of children – pandemic or not – was a priority, noting that kids needed food assistance, especially when they weren’t able to get meals at school. The Alamance-Burlington School System serves more than 23,000 students.
The church partnered with about 15 other local churches as well as individuals from the area, and was able to raise $130,000 — enough to buy a 15-foot truck with two refrigerators, and two warming ovens.
Clyburn said the fact that the church was able to do this during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic is a reminder to be bold.
“Don’t be afraid to respond to the need that’s in front of you and trust that God will help you do it,” she said.
In the fall of 2020 the truck — named Mac’s Diner (Meals for Almanace County Students) was used to deliver meals to students in various parts of Graham county who were studying virtually. This school year the truck is being used to provide food to them on the weekends or for special events around the school district.
“The food workers who use the truck are very protective of it,” Skulnik said. “They fight over who can take it out and really have a good time with it. The kids love it.”
story by Tracy Simmons, Hartford Institute for Religion Research
This story represents how United Methodist local churches through their Annual Conferences are living as Vital Congregations. A vital congregation is the body of Christ making and engaging disciples for the transformation of the world. Vital congregations are shaped by and witnessed through four focus areas: calling and shaping principled Christian leaders; creating and sustaining new places for new people; ministries with poor people and communities; and abundant health for all.