How To Serve During Difficult Times
Updated: Aug 12
The following interview was with current Gwinnett Leadership Forum (GLF) Board member Ryan Jones as he commented on his volunteer leadership role as Director of The Pantry at Hamilton Mill United Methodist Church.
GLF: What is The Pantry at HMUMC?
RYAN: The Pantry is a community service organization that distributes a weekly food supply consisting of quality fresh and shelf stable foods to around 450 families each Saturday. To receive, sort, organize and distribute the 20,000 plus pounds of food required, we enlist the help of around 30 volunteers on a weekly basis. Clients pick up their food on Saturday mornings between 8:00-11:00. We are a partner with the Atlanta Community Food Bank which serves the greater Atlanta metro area with The Pantry serving the extreme northeast corridor. Our vision is to bring our community to the table of faith by taking hunger off the table. We believe we will accomplish this by providing quality food and building quality relationships rooted in the love of Jesus.
GLF: With that large of an undertaking, what are some of the challenges you face?
RYAN: Given the current environment, our top priority is the health and safety of our volunteers as well as the clients we serve. We have completely changed our mode of operation from in person to a drive thru. We’ve instituted various social distancing measures, reduced our number of volunteers on site at any given time and crafted various Covid response plans. In addition, as the need within the community continues to grow, we are exploring how to address space issues for all of the operations that are required. As I say quite often, “every week is truly a miracle.”
GLF: When did you first become involved with The Pantry and what prompted you to do so.
RYAN: About 2 years ago we heard about this community ministry of HMUMC. At the time, our son was about 5 years old and we wanted him to begin learning the importance of serving others. We created a “giving” box so that whenever he earned money from doing a chore, for example, he could contribute a portion into the box. Afterward, with the money he collected, we took him to make his contribution to The Pantry and also volunteered as well.
GLF: When did you assume the role of Director?
RYAN: Our prior director had decided to further her training in the medical field and was no longer able to devote the necessary time and attention to the operation. As we were continuing without any leader, I was prompted to step forward and accept the challenge by taking to heart the example of Isaiah, “Here I am, send me.” I’ve been serving in this role since March 2019.
GLF: What are your primary responsibilities?
RYAN: Aside from having overall operations responsibility, my primary role is twofold:
The liaison with the community at large
The liaison with the Atlanta Community Food Bank
We recently had a community leader come observe our Saturday morning distribution. After viewing the hundreds of cars lining the parking lot and seeing our volunteers working in the summer heat on a hot asphalt parking lot, she commented, “you must get weary doing this every week”. My thought was even though we may be physically weary, I will never lose heart due to the constant reminder of the good I am able to see in people. The people stepping in during a global pandemic and saying, “I’m definitely safer at home but I feel like this is where God wants me to be.” The volunteers spending hours of their lives living out Peter’s words when he said, “silver and gold I may not have but what I do have I give to you in the name of Jesus.” Donors, despite economic uncertainty, giving generously. And the list goes on and on.
GLF: What is one story you’d like to share that has had an impact on you?
RYAN: One of our long-term clients, an elderly gentleman, recently contacted us. After a previous fall at his home, he was now residing in a nursing home but wanted to know our location and address. Soon after, we received a check in the mail--his donation for what The Pantry has meant to him. We have certainly received larger financial donations. But it wasn’t about what he gave, it was about how he gave it. This gentleman didn’t wait for his situation to get better; he simply gave what he had. In the end, although we have major organizations that assist us in so many significant ways, I was again reminded that true significance is found in our sacrificially giving to others.
To learn more about how you can donate or volunteer your time, please visit https://hmumc.org/thepantry.