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Celebrating 30 Years Together

Grace Solomon, Grace Atkinson, Sarah Houston, Charlotte Hampton and Rev. Wilburn Sanders

On a recent spring morning, as four volunteers from Statesville Ave. Presbyterian gathered to reminisce about the last 30 years, they couldn’t help but smile.  Grace Atkinson, Sarah Houston, Grace Solomon and Charlotte Hampton have been volunteering together at the Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Loaves & Fishes pantry since it began in September of 1982.

At that time, there was only one Loaves & Fishes food pantry.  Located at Holy Comforter Episcopal on Park Road it was not exactly convenient for those needing help in the Statesville Ave. area.  The Hunger Action Committee of the Presbytery of Charlotte saw the need and with the help of former pastor, Rev. Wilburn Sanders, Statesville Avenue Presbyterian became home to the second Loaves & Fishes emergency food pantry.

“In those early days, we would go to small grocery stores and ask for bent up cans to help stock the shelves. Sometimes the manager would give us $10 out of his own pocket.” recalls Rev. Sanders.  Today, regular food deliveries are brought to the pantry from the Loaves & Fishes warehouse.

In 30 years the group has seen other changes. For one; the sheer number of people now being fed and how the need has grown.  “As a result of the recession, we see people who used to work for the big banks that have been laid off and now need help.” says Grace Atkinson, “We have also had clients who have joined the church after coming to receive help from the pantry and others who bring food donations in after they get back on their feet.” 

Another change is the new model for of serving clients –Client Choice.

The women all agree that they like Client Choice. They enjoy the extra interaction it gives with the clients and point out that it adds dignity. “It is not a hand out.  And it helps reduce food waste – A client will say “Oh no, I don’t need rice, I have rice at home.”

When asked what called them to this ministry, Grace Solomon doesn’t hesitate, “Because there are hungry people in this world and scripture tells you to feed my sheep.”

Adds Charlotte Hampton, “You can see the hunger in their faces. There’s nothing like being hungry. A child comes in and asks ‘Can I have something?’ and the answer is YES!”

With 120 years of volunteering between them, the women clearly enjoy the work that they say God has called them to do. And as they explain why, they can’t help but smile.