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Christian Outreach Alliance seeks volunteers for food pantry

By Adam Dodson | The Selma Times-Journal

The Christian Outreach Alliance Food Pantry is looking for men and women who would be willing to volunteer some time towards assisting with their food distribution to the homeless and those in need.

The alliance meets from 9:30 a.m. to noon every Thursday at the Miller Childers Center to distribute their canned goods and other staple food products.

They also commit volunteer service the preceding Wednesday where they weigh and bag the food. They are open every Wednesday and Thursday of the year other than Thanksgiving or other holidays.

According to volunteer Nancy Bennett, there is always a need for volunteers. Over the past year their number of clients they serve has increased, with more people than ever before showing up as first-timers. They usually serve between 200 to 250 people on an average Thursday. The number of volunteers is around 35 people per month.

“The need is increasing,” Bennett said. “The number of clients we see is rising. People show up here who have never been here before. I am seeing people I haven’t seen in two years.”

Bennett says it takes a “myriad of people” to keep things running smoothly with the process. Because there is a high demand for help, they work with churches and schools for monetary and food donations.

Other than donations, the alliance purchases food from the Selma Food Bank and also receives locally-made food from farmer John Brown. Winn Dixie pitches in to help bag, package and weigh the food handed out to their clients. They also announce their fundraisers over the radio.

Despite the challenges they face with a rising number of clients to serve, the members of the COA stay motivated with high spirits and building relationships.

“I know the clients appreciate what we do,” said COA volunteer Valerie Lattimore. “We know their names and they are always glad to see us. There is a joy that comes from serving the community.”

Lattimore used to live in Selma until moving nearby to Prattville. Despite changing cities, Lattimore still volunteers for the Christian Outreach alliance, wishing to stay involved with what they are trying to accomplish.

Being a Christian organization, some of their mottos and ideals come from Bible excerpts.

They have adopted their favorite verse as a mission statement. This comes from Matthew 25:40, which reads “The king will reply, ‘truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.”

As to why the number of people needing food assistance from the COA keeps rising, Bennett believes it is because of a cut in federal funding to the food stamp program. This cut in federal funding started under the Obama administration and is continuing with the current Trump administration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Selma has an unemployment rate close to double the state average, sitting at 7 percent while the Alabama rate is 3.8 percent

For more information about the Christian Outreach Alliance, contact them at COAFoodPantry@gmail.com.