With a congregation of only 100, First Community Congregational Church, located at 200 E. Leeland Heights Blvd. In Lehigh Acres serves 3,000 plus people a month in their food and bread pantries, and soup kitchen.
Because of our economic times, many families need assistance for the first. The church manages a soup kitchen on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They distribute food from the Harry Chapin Food Bank Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until noon. They have a bread ministry Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. until noon.
The ministries are managed by the church, but volunteers from the church and the community maintain these three ministries.
Even Deborah Frysinger, known as "Pastor Deb, says that without our volunteers, we would not be able to serve the quantity of people, and we would not be able to serve Lehigh and its people.
We have seen a complete turnover in one year's time. What used to be one group of people needing help, we now see senior citizens and middle class families.
We even see many, many homeless people. It is heart-wrenching when we hear stories that people had to make a decision as to whether to "pay the rent or pay for medication," "pay for food or pay the electric bill."
Our soup kitchen started because people needed a good, nutritious meal. Many of our "visitors" tell us this is the only hot meal of they have.
But all of the giving from the heart does not come cheap.
The church has to pay for (at discounted prices) the food they get from Harry Chapin. The tiny congregation, many financially strapped themselves, help to stock their can goods food pantry. But this goodness cannot continue indefinitely. Without help from the community, many of these programs may die.
While monetary donations are always appreciated and accepted, the community can help out by dropping off a few can goods or bags of rice and beans, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Pastor Deb told the story of what initiated the soup kitchen.
A mother came into the food pantry with a little girl fussing and whining. When the volunteer gave them a jar of peanut butter, the mother started crying, and said it had been the day before yesterday when her children had eaten last.
The church can give food but that does no good if there is no electricity or place to heat it up. As the pantry started eight months ago, while the soup kitchen started six month ago.
Please help these vital ministries going for the people of Lehigh Acres by your donations of food, money and time.
Kathleen Butler-Lowrie is an educational business consultant and lives in Lehigh Acres.