Compassion Ministries to help locally

Families line up for food during a mobile food pantry December 2017 at Philadelphia Elementary School.

Community Church at Tellico Village has partnered with a regional ministry to provide food for local families in times of need.

Compassion Ministries, an outreach initiative of Cornerstone Church of Knoxville, hosts an on-site food pantry every two weeks and a mobile food pantry once a month. The ministry will come this month to Loudon County with a mobile food pantry.

Families can drive through to pick up food 10 a.m. until food runs out Saturday at Philadelphia Elementary School.

The mobile food pantry this year has visited surrounding communities like Morgan and Anderson counties, where CCTV volunteers helped distribute food. The mobile food pantries have fed up to 1,000 families in the past, Jody Brashear, Compassion Ministries Board of Directors president, said.

Brashear knew CCTV had plenty of capable volunteers, so she approached the Rev. Stephen Prevatte, church pastor, to propose a partnership earlier this year.

The church’s first involvement with the organization was in March.

“We got involved with Compassion Ministries in March after the tornadoes hit Middle Tennessee,” the Rev. Jennifer Rutter, associate and missions pastor, said. “… That was kind of our first involvement with them, and so we went to the Cookeville area, which was one of the hardest hit areas, and worked a mobile food pantry for folks, and we were so impressed with the organization and with their mission. We decided we wanted to do more locally, and so we plugged in.”

After the Cookeville mobile food pantry, CCTV committed to volunteering at the on-site pantry in Farragut once a month and at several mobile food pantries. Brashear said it was a “natural marriage” for CCTV to volunteer at the PES mobile food pantry.

“We have about 25 volunteers on our mobile days and probably 15-ish for the local food pantries,” Rutter said. “And it gets a good swath of our members, so there’s lots of times where we have a good mix of new volunteers and volunteers who have worked it before, and I think that is just a testament to the energy of it, and also in these crazy times our members really wanting to do something to help the community.”

Marla Tedesco has assumed the role of volunteer coordinator for the partnership with Compassion Ministries. Finding volunteers wasn’t difficult.

“It wasn’t a huge effort to coordinate the volunteers,” Tedesco said. “It just sort of all fell together and happened. Every time we ask for volunteers, people come forward. … It’s been one of those things where you find yourself wishing you could do something, and then all of a sudden it happens, and you can, and there’s so many hands and feet that are that are willing to help, and it just magically does.”

Volunteer positions are not exclusive to church members, Tedesco said. Anyone who is willing to help can call the church and sign up to have their name put on a roster. When Tedesco solicits volunteers for the next pantry, she sends a mass email to everybody on the roster. Volunteers can then sign up through the website linked in the email.

Seeing “the thousands of pounds that have been handed out and looking at the hundreds and hundreds of families that have been helped” is a huge blessing, Tedesco said.

Shauna Oden, church volunteer, sees the partnership as beneficial for the church as it is for Compassion Ministries and the families receiving the food.

“Their need was for volunteers, and our need was to have an outlet for some of our church members to actually go and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the people that need food and need what our Christianity brings,” Oden said. “So it’s worked out really well. We have a group of volunteers, and we set the dates, and tell them when we need them, and they sign up. So it’s just been a process of growing with the organization and our church a part of it as a partner.”

For more information and a calendar of scheduled food pantries, visit www.compassion ministries.net.