The Village Harvest at 6, Nov. 20, 2020

Title:The Village Harvest at 6, Nov. 20, 2020

We reached a milestone  Nov. 20, 2020 – The Village Harvest, our food ministry, 6 years old

Let’s go back to its roots. Why  was it established?

The first notice of this ministry in November, 2014 said “The cost of food continues to rise and knowing that some of our Port Royal community might find it difficult to keep food on the table, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church wants to help. A new food ministry,  ‘Village Harvest’ will provide seasonal fresh produce once a month along with other  food and other supplies.  As we embark on this venture, it is our hope that we can grow it to help meet the specific needs of the community we serve.”

On Nov. 19, 2014  we attracted 60 clients and gave out 300 pounds that day. 6 years later in 2020 we are averaging almost twice that number and 4 times are much food. I have called it “Give a Little, Gain a Lot”

6 years later we have served over 7,800 clients over 75,500 pounds of food.  This year through October, the average pounds of food per person is almost 13  which at $6 a pound is worth $78. It is clearly one of our more visible and valuable outreach expressions from our church.  We are called to do like Jesus – and he fed people both physically and spiritually. Witness the stories of the Feeding of the 4,000 and 5,000.

Over its 6-year life it has provided at least 4 benefits for our clients:

  1. Food for those who are being challenged economically. Funds saved from purchasing food can go toward other necessities. We have a variety of clients ‐ widows, single parents, senior adults on limited fix income, unemployed, working poor, people experiencing a crisis.

In a sermon on September 22, 2019 Catherine wrote “I have had people who come to the distribution tell me that they wouldn’t have had enough food to get through the month without the food we provided

The Free Lance-Star reported in Aug., 2018, “about 31,000 residents of Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Spotsylvania and Stafford consistently lack enough food to maintain a healthy, active life. They’re considered food insecure by the United States Department of Agriculture. That means there are more local people who have trouble putting food on the table than the entire population of Fredericksburg. They are teachers and service workers, first responders and retail employees—and many of them work several jobs, which often means they make too much for government assistance.”

  1. Food for those who lack transportation to get it. We draw clients from Caroline and Essex counties
  2. It provides benefits for those at St. Peter’s as well:

  • Teaching children about outreach and generosity. One summer in Vacation Bible school provided jars of beans with a recipe for a distribution.
  • Enriching the volunteers at St. Peter’s who help with the distribution.

Four quotes from our volunteers highlight their role:

“I enjoy being a part of a team in our mission “To Do God’s Will”. “I think that our community is learning that we at St. Peter’s CARE and desire to share God’s love with our neighbors.”

“I help with Village Harvest because we get to know the people we help. These folks become friends not just a number. It just makes me happy that we can help in some small way to make things a little easier or better for them.”

 “I help because we are called in the Gospel to feed the hungry.” 

“Helping people to have access to fresh vegetables, fruit, meats and other necessities is important to me and our church. It is what Jesus asks us to do. 

         4 . Social and community benefits

It also provides another a role for the church in the community. People who are not members are coming here for food. I like to affectionately call the Village Harvest our “second congregation. ” This is a missional opportunity.

This gathering time gives people a chance to see one another and socialize a little. Catherine had had the opportunity to pray with three people who are facing serious health issues. One woman who has had one cancer surgery and is facing another said, “Sometimes I feel that every time I get back on my feet, something else happens and knocks me back down again. This food is a real blessing in my life. Thank you all for doing this.”

The Village Harvest also serves as a clearing house for information. We have let people know about the Port Royal library and the services it offers, the Port Royal Fishing Days, and also provided information about the Central Virginia Health Services in Bowling Green.

It has changed over time.

We started out bagging vegetables and cans and before 2020 and the pandemic, we use a supermarket approach – get what you need. We are back this year to individual bags and boxes due to the pandemic.

It has grown in numbers. In 3 years from 2015-2018, clients served rose 734 in Jan., to Oct. 2015 to a high of 1,494 in 2017 from  Jan – to Oct. It has scaled back to 1,122 in 2019. During 2018, we stopped calling to remind people of the harvest. Our core group now is about 100 people per month, the ones who are benefiting constantly each month. This year in 2020 we were closed 3 months, April through June during the Pandemic and still managed 707 people.

And it has grown in foods provided. Foods supplied have consistently increased over the period from 4,355 pounds in Jan. to Oct. 2015 to 9,132 pounds, Jan to Oct, 2020 even with three months being closed.

More food, fewer clients has meant that the average pounds distributed to each person has doubled from 6 to 13 pounds. At $6 of value per pound, that means the average client receives over $78 of food per month!  Plus it is high quality foods – much of it is fresh vegetables and produce.

We have distributed more than food. We have provided school supplies in the summer and calendars and small gifts at Christmas. We have provided information about services, such as health related. We have prayed with them. And we have held dinners for our clients.

Thanks to the congregation!

When we talk about food we need to thank the people who drive an hour to get it – That’s Cookie and Johnny our first string and Roger and Eunice in reserve. Phil Fitzhugh has also done it.  Thanks to all of you for many months of service.

We need to thank the people who unload it around 9:30am, the ones who organize it  and finally the ones who serve our shoppers between 3pm – 5pm. They are all valuable members of the team.

The monetary costs have increased over time

Our goal in #Giving Tuesday which is coming up Dec. 1, 2020 is to raise 25% or $450 representing 25% of our annual costs.

  • A $10 donation feeds 6 people, 12 pounds each. It provides 72 pounds of food and $430 in total value!
  • A $20 donation feeds 12 people, 12 pounds each. It provides 144 pounds of food and $864 in total value!

Do you serve another organization that loves  give back ? Donating $200 puts you and or your organization into the “Village Club” for special recognition since you have covered the food for one Village Harvest!

You cannot get a better return on your funds than this.

I would like to encourage your support and also for you to encourage your neighbors, friends and business associates to give.

In  conclusion,  we do “gain a lot” from this ministry.  There’s even more  – and that is  building connections between ourselves and our clients and between ourselves. With our clients, we provide value in the foods we distribute, hospitality and friendship getting to know our clients, and to find meaningful ways to live out the Gospel.  With our ourselves we have taught the important of generosity, service, and being part of the team as well as creating a name for St. Peter’s in the community.

Please support us on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.  You can pledge online or through the mail (St. Peter’s Church, P. O. Box 399, Port Royal, Virginia 22535).

It all comes back to us!