Adventist Community Services (ACS) entities around the North American Division (NAD) continue to provide relief and meet the needs of their community in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NAD ACS is committed to supporting the operations of the ACS food pantry ministries of the 60 local conferences within the NAD territory (United States, Canada, Bermuda, and Guam-Micronesia). In order to provide that support, NAD ACS is investing $1.5 million and allocating a grant of $25,000 per conference for relief efforts. Through the past two decades, NAD ACS has established 1,358 ACS centers in the division — most of these centers provide provisional services, especially food pantries. The funds are earmarked to secure foods and provide PPEs (personal protective equipment) for volunteers.
Volunteers shuck corn and get supplies ready at the ACS food pantry of the Allegheny East Conference in Pennsylvania. Photo provided by NAD Adventist Community Services
Manufacturing companies are not able to produce and operate their industries in full capacity, especially the food industry, explained Sung Kwon, director of NAD ACS. The number for those who have filed for unemployment benefits in the U.S. alone has risen to more than 10 million; the transportation industry is not able to function normally; and importing goods is restricted and limited.
“Due to these complications, NAD ACS leadership decided to focus assistance on food shortage concerns. As unemployment increases, people will seek free groceries through the local food banks and food pantries,” Kwon said. “We will do our part to serve others while mitigating and minimizing the risk to our own ACS volunteers and church members.”
“It’s important for ministries that serve the vulnerable to continue their ministries in the middle of a global pandemic because that’s when people are the most vulnerable and need the hope and assurance that these ministries provide,” said Bonita Shields, NAD ministries vice president.
A Texas Conference ACS worker helps get cleaning supplies ready for distribution at Faith Community Academy in Dallas.
Food banks have limited supplies due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s not easy for ACS pantry ministries to obtain donated foodstuffs. This is causing a strain on the centers that are continuing to serve and support families and individuals who are facing even more challenges due to this crisis.
One of many locations that looks forward to receiving more assistance is the Escanaba ACS Food Pantry in Michigan, one of the only food pantries in the Upper Peninsula. This Adventist pantry engages in mobile food pantries to different counties in order to reach those in need. Director Robin Wycoff reported that they had more than 1,200 families line up last week for miles to get food. She said, "It was such an amazing, yet sad day; [the mobile pantry] served so many, but had to also turn away just as much because they ran out of food."
ACS food pantry at the Mt. Olive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Apopka, Florida, prepares to distribute food via drive-thru service.
In some locations, volunteers need protective gear, currently in short supply, in order to assist at centers. Since these volunteers are committed to continue serving there is a greater need to protect and keep them safe. ACS centers encounter additional costs related to safety items such as gloves, masks, wipes, paper towels, disinfectants, sanitizers, and more.
“We must keep everyone in our thoughts and prayers as we journey through this tribulation together, giving and receiving grace in our dealings with our families, our volunteers, our community, and the world,” said Kwon. “ACS remains resolute that, as we go forward, we will continue to take protective measures for all, but especially our vulnerable and elderly church members, and the ACS volunteers. Despite the COVID-19 unprecedented interruption, I am grateful for our church members and ACS volunteers — continually active in serving their communities.”
He added, “If you would like to help keep our volunteers safe and protected, please consider contributing a benevolent gift so we can continue to fulfill our mission of ‘Serving Communities in Christ’s Name.’” [Click here for info on how to donate.]
Stories on the challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has caused centers and food banks across the division, as well as some ways they have adapted in addressing and meeting the needs of their communities are available at the NAD ACS website. Eager to share these stories of challenges, miracles and blessings, NAD ACS personnel update frequently.
This article was written by Kimberly Luste Maran and NAD Adventist Community Services, and originally appeared on the North American Division website. It is reprinted here with permission.
Main image: In Tacoma, Washington, an ACS food pantry volunteer gets ready to put signs up before drive-through operation begins. Photos courtesy of NAD Adventist Community Services.
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