A handful of people in Holliday have managed to inspire the community to come together and find a way to feed their neighbors in need. Newschannel 6 is recognizing the Harvest Food Ministry as "Champions in Community Service."
Two years ago, the small congregation of Holliday Assembly of God church saw a need.
"People are having to work two or three jobs just to be able to keep their homes or cars and where do you cut back first... the grocery store," Charlene Perez said.
To form a food pantry seemed like an impossible task for only five or so people, but where they lacked in numbers, they made up with their overwhelming passion to serve others.
"So, we just let the Lord bring them in as he needed them to come. That's how we worked it is by faith," Pastor Mike Wells said.
Once a month, they hand out boxes of supplemental food to help people get by. Word quickly spread around town, and what started as serving to a couple dozen people turned into a couple hundred.
"We had this idea in our mind and yet the ministry is so much bigger and the need so much greater than we ever anticipated," Dee McMahan said.
Even though they are serving more people now, Pastor Wells knows there are still those out there who aren't getting what they need.
" I'm sure there's a whole lot more out there but pride and just coming and receiving what they need is hard for them. So, you will never really know how many go without and sacrifice and never show up, " Pastor Wells said, "We all need help. Sometimes we just have a hard time admitting we could use some help."
Being on the receiving end isn't easy. Charlene and Raymon Perez found that out when an accident changed their world in a matter of seconds. Raymon fell and hit his head, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury and unable to work.
" It's one of the hardest things I learned through it all. It's like I'd say, 'Oh no, I don't need that, don't do that,' but in truth, I don't know what I would've done without it. "
Charlene is used to being the one helping others. She spent more than 20 years working for food banks. But last year, she had to give up her job to stay home and take care of her husband.
" I never dreamed we would be one of the ones. the day we went to the food pantry for the first time, I put on my Facebook, 'I just became a recipient of a program that I have worked for the past 24 years to make it better,' never dreaming that we would be one of the ones," Perez said.
While the box they pick up each month provides items of food they would never be able to afford on their own, it also provides so much more.
"In my heart, it's a support system. I know that anytime if Raymon needs special medicine or something happens and it takes that money from our fixed income that I can go to that food pantry and they're going to help me," she said.
The volunteers at Harvest Food Ministry strive to make sure everyone feels welcome. Charlene and Raymon said that means everything to them.
"They're wonderful. They are happy, they're upbeat. They don't go into your life story. They're there to serve you. That's what it feels like, like they are absolutely there to serve you," Charlene Perez said.
"You come into these churches and they make you proud. they really make you proud," Raymon said.
"Maybe that's why God put us there, is to learn how to receive," Charlene said.
The number of those served isn't all that's grown over the years. Those doing the serving now include a number of volunteers from other churches. In fact, the food pantry has an advisory board made up of every pastor in Holliday and a number of community leaders.
"We couldn't do what we do without people joining together from other denominations and we're very thankful for that," Pastor Wells said.
The facility they use is even expanding. From the church kitchen and closets they're in now, to soon a brand new building.
"Two years ago, we had 32 2 x 4's we needed to build the shelves, today we have a more than 3,200 sq ft. building," Pastor Wells said.
The hope is the building will be a place people can go to receive help in whatever areas they need. Of course the food pantry items, but they also want to provide resources and educate people on job opportunities, health programs and life skills.
"We believe God is doing a whole lot more than just giving food out. he's bringing people together. We're not focused on ourselves, we're focused on those less fortunate and just trying to bring some hope to our community," Pastor Wells said.
It truly is an amazing thing that such a small group of people have made such a big impact in their town. While they are a humble bunch and do not want the credit for what the Harvest Food Ministry has become, we would still like to thank them for making a difference in Texoma. Congratulations, to Harvest Food Ministry for being our first honoree of the Newschannel 6 Community Service Champion award.
If you know a person or group you consider a community service champion, we want to hear about them. We'll open up nominations to hear about those who've touched your life or others around you. Each month, we'll feature a different nominee and next year, we'll bring them all together for a special awards ceremony.
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