“We are located in an area that is very young and wealthy, but the wealth can mask poverty. There are a lot of working poor families that come to get food. I have had people say to me that they can now pay the bills since they received food here,” says Pastor Sharon Schulze, co-founder of Parktown Food Hub in Durham, North Carolina.
Parktown is only five years old, but they have already expanded and pivoted a couple of times to meet the growing needs in their community. Ultimately, their mission is to be a spot where food and friendships can be shared. They distribute food, but they also foster community and conversation. For example, Parktown’s Story Circles are times for groups of five people (socially distanced and masked, of course!) to gently share about themselves; who they are, where they are from and what they believe. It’s a way of fostering empathy and understanding among people from all walks of life.
The food hub is currently located at Parktown United Methodist Church, which has a huge porch and circle drive. What used to be a shopping-style food pickup inside the church has transformed into a safe, outdoor operation during the pandemic. And it’s a really good thing that the food hub has been able to continue operations during the pandemic, since need is skyrocketing.
“We initially had 600-700 people coming a month before the pandemic, then it hit 2,000 a month so we added an extra distribution day and thankfully, had donations from the community coming in, too.” Pastor Sharon also shares. “We work with community partners like the Lutheran Services, congregations, Second Chance Ministries so any extra we share with them and we are able to reach individuals even more through them.”
Like many other hunger fighting operations, Parktown sees a consistent demand for hygiene supplies. So in the same spirit of community that Parktown fosters, volunteers at the Richmond CROP Hunger Walk assembled 100 CWS Hygiene Kits that went to Parktown. “We put the hygiene kits into boxes with the food so every family got them during our distribution day. The families always ask about hygiene items and that is something we don’t always have so it is really nice to have the hygiene kits! We don’t have a designated storage space so it is really helpful to pass out the premade kits,” Pastor Sharon says.
When we asked her what message she had for people who put together CWS Kits, Pastor Sharon said, “There is a yawning need here, and that little small act really goes to something bigger. One hygiene kit can make a huge difference for a family. Jesus touched each person’s life one by one, and we can do that, too. It really is overwhelming to think about the support. The little acts can mean so much, so thank you!”
To learn more about how you can help support organizations like Parktown Food Hub, please visit cwskits.org.