Food Bank Ministry
In the early 1980's the United States was experiencing a severe recession. Southeast Fort Wayne was one of the harder hit areas with the downsizing and closing of many large companies. Bethlehem Lutheran Church is located in the heart of that area and was the spiritual home to many of the impacted people.
It was at this time that Bethlehem's Food Bank was formed. Its purpose was to assist any of our members with food and other necessities. Bethlehem partnered with Grace Lutheran Church, which stored clothing, furniture, appliances and goods in a garage and distributed them as the need arose. Members donated the majority of the food. The pastors or other individuals helped distribute the food. There were no set hours for distriubtion. The Social Ministry Board also had a small fund, which was used to help with other emergency needs.
The Food bank was originally located in the basement of the school. As the need for the Food Bank grew, it developed regular hours, increased its services to nonmembers and provided a greater variety of food. It became part of a citywide system formed by Associated Churches of Fort Wayne. Bob Doest became our link with Associated Churches. He would secure food from the warehouse and deliver it to Bethlehem. Associated Churches continues to provide between 2000 and 2500 pounds of food monthly. They now deliver the food to us.
At the same time, a method for recording clients and their visits was established. Territories were established throughout the city. Bethlehem still serves the area between Oxford Street on the North, Anthony Blvd. on the West, Tillman Road on the South and Meyer Road on the East. Approximately 16 square miles.
It was decided to move the Food Bank from the basement to the first floor, closer to the clients and workers. Shelves were built to store dry food and canned goods. We were blessed with donations of freezers and refrigerators to enable us to provide produce, frozen meat, bread, eggs, butter, cheese and many other items. A waiting area was made available for the clients outside the church's office entrance. The food and volunteers were then only a few feet from the clients. It was much easier and efficient.We became a five day operation with regular hours. We were blessed with more volunteers. Our volunteers currently donate between 170-200 hours monthly to serve this ministry.In July of 2000 Associated Churches partnered with Community Harvest and began to buy food from them.
We get roughly 2000 pounds of food from Community Harvest at month. We have volunteers who go weekly to Community Harvest and Kroger for baked goods. Our congregation continues to donate food, money and spiritual support.
We currently serve between 350-500 people a month, which is equivalent to 5000-7500 meals monthly.