‘Welcome Table’ reaching community

Pictured are Marion Dancy, Becky Ford, Steven Ford, Pastor Kevin Pires, Karen Pires, Florence Eckright and Debbie Kinzer.

PICKENS — Despite limited funds, time and manpower, the Pickens Seventh-Day Adventist Church has committed itself to the community in a new way, with wondrous results.

On the last Tuesday of each month, the church sponsors the “Welcome Table” for any and all members of the Pickens community. Working in concert with volunteers from both the church and the food bank next door, the church serves a hot meal between 12 noon and 1 pm to anyone who comes to the church.

“God has blessed this effort beyond our wildest dreams,” said Becky Ford, leader of the Welcome Table team. “We stepped out in faith, and he answered at our very first meal.”

The first event, held in February 2014, drew 52 hungry neighbors from the surrounding area. The Christian message of helping those less fortunate among us was foremost in the minds of the planners.

“We know the truth of Matthew 25:40, which tells us ‘…whatever you did for the least of these my brothers, you did likewise for me,’ but actually doing so gives one a blessing beyond description,” Becky’s husband, Steve, said of the feeling of feeding the hungry. “When we are serving others, we are truly serving Christ.”

The feeding outreach emphasizes the health message of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. As such, the outreach strives to serve healthy meals with a focus on vegetables, breads and grains, and foods low in salt, sugar and fats.

After returning thanks to God, Pastor Kevin Pires gave a brief presentation to the group stressing the importance of healthily eating.

“Look toward your health,” he said. “Seek to honor your body — God’s temple.”

The diners nodded approvingly as they enjoyed potato, vegetable, and tomato soup and a variety of sandwiches and breads.

After such a successful start, the church has been able to conduct the Welcome Table community feeding program each month throughout 2014 and it is now a fixture for the “regulars” who look forward to the meal each month. This is due in no small measure to the generosity of local businesses that have been very supportive.

With their initial successes, the Welcome Table team is expanding their efforts. Advertising is being expanded to increase neighborhood participation, and more church members are stepping up to help in the preparation and serving of food. Initial efforts to secure the assistance of local grocery stores to donate food have also been very promising, and more and more local businesses have donated money, food, or both. Sam’s Club, SubZone, Main Street Pizzeria, Publix, Save-A-Lot, Subway, Ingles, Bi-Lo and the Wal-Mart stores in both Pickens and Easley have all contributed to the outreach during the year.

The church received joyous news in October; they had applied for a grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation in May to assist in the feeding outreach, and the grant was approved.

“Wal-Mart is a responsible corporate partner that honestly seeks to give back to the communities they serve with their retail stores. Their mission dovetails closely with ours, and they have been very generous in helping us help the community,” Ford said during the October meal. “Along with the tremendous support we have received from our local business community, we will not only be able to continue with our ministry, but expand it.”

All members of the Pickens community are invited to the Welcome Table. The dates for the remainder of the 2014 calendar year are Nov. 25 and Dec. 30.