Saturday, September 12, 2009

TOP STORY >> More food to become available

Leader staff writer

A food pantry in Beebe will be able to help more people thanks to a new energy-efficient, walk-in freezer.

Fellowship Bible Church in Cabot helped Mannafest Blessings food pantry secure $6,500 through the Arkansas Rice Depot to purchase the eight-foot-by-10-foot freezer.

The walk-in freezer replaces 12 home refrigerators Mannafest Blessings was using to keep fresh meats, vegetables, milk and juices chilled.

“It is a godsend. The electric bills were astronomical, $700 a month that my husband and I paid. Every penny that is donated goes to purchase food,” Sue Davis said. She directs the pantry with her husband Frank.

The freezer was delivered to the pantry last week and will be installed and running by Thursday.

Mannafest Blessings pantry warehouse is located at 405 Priest Road and is housed next to the Davises’ home. The pantry has been at the location since 2006, when the Davis family moved there from Cabot after raising their children.

Mannafest Blessings’ volunteers will be out on street corners in Cabot on Saturday, Sept. 19, collecting money to support the food pantry.

The couple started helping hungry families in 2001 when they began feeding people out of their cupboard in Cabot.

“We were missionaries to Mexico,” Sue Davis said. “My husband had a heart attack and had to come back. We were ready to retire, so we retired and started helping two families. In three months time, we were helping 10 families.

“We really concentrate on the elderly,” she continued. “We work with several churches in Cabot, Beebe, Ward, McRae and Jacksonville.”

The name Mannafest Blessings is a reference from the Bible, when God sent manna, or unleavened bread, to feed the Israelites. The word manifest means to show or appear.

The pantry is a nonprofit organization that operates through the help of volunteers.

The food pantry works with the Arkansas Department of Human Services in Lonoke County along with police and fire departments to assist hungry residents.

Churches also come to the pantry to pick up boxes of food. Church members deliver food to elderly residents.
The Davises also help the needy who drop by the pantry.

“We are seeing people we never thought we would see. Due to the economy, one or the other in the family has lost their job and are having to ask for help. If they come and they have a need, we try to accommodate them,” Davis said.

In July, the pantry helped 565 families. Then in August, Mannafest Blessings saw that number drop to 365 families. Davis said the number averaged 1,200 people last month. She expects the numbers to increase near Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Members of Fellowship Bible Church are planning to construct a waiting room and an office at the food pantry. The church will supply the funds and labor.

Beebe resident Etter Chriswell said Mannafest Blessings helped her family during their time of need.

She and her son Richard walked into the food pantry for assistance. Chriswell is disabled and her sons, Richard and Brian, are searching for work.

“They do a very good job. We have seven in our family. (The food) will last for a month depending on how fast we eat,” Chriswell said.

“They pray for us,” her son Richard added.

Food donations are accepted at Mannafest Blessings along with monetary donations. They will also accept good working appliances, refrigerators and stoves to distribute to needy families.