Helping neighbors in need is no doubt what is called for in times such as these when the working poor and those even further down the chain struggle day to day to provide food for themselves and their families.
Originally founded in 1975 to be a cooperative effort of United Methodist Churches to provide administrative support and pool resources to meet local mission needs, that vision still remains as the Caswell Parish, along with Two Hearts Thrift Store on Main Street, Yanceyville, continues to thrive thanks to a lot of help from volunteers, churches, foundations, businesses, and individuals who provide money for distributing food and helping with utilities.
“Back in those days, there were no large churches in Caswell County, but a number of small churches,” explains Nell Page, the volunteer administrator at Caswell Parish. “A group of Methodist pastors founded the parish to address these needs and it grew from there.”
The parish has several sources from which to obtain food.
Food Lion of Yanceyville makes daily donations of perishable food items.
Another source of food is Second Harvest of Northwestern NC located in Winston-Salem. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities at no cost to Americans in need of short-term hunger relief through food providers like emergency food pantries, food banks, soup kitchens and shelters. The parish only has to pay the delivery cost of this food.
In addition, Caswell Parish purchases food from area retailers to supplement what is donated. Also, many churches, civic groups, schools, and individuals donate food. All food, whether purchased or donated, must be weighed and recorded.
A recent newsletter shares the good news that 2019 was an exciting and productive year for the parish with its primary mission of relieving hunger growing as more and more citizens need food assistance. As the year unfolded the need for help continued to rise. January started out with 765 people getting help. By May that number had increased to 900 plus for the months of May, July, October and November. In addition there were 196 families receiving some type of assistance for utilities in pledges to prevent their power being cut off or payments for oil, wood or propane.
Thanks to a grant from the Womack Foundation, a new program to provide socks and shoes for school children in need was initiated. Since school started in September, the parish has bought shoes and socks for 11 children. In addition, the Womack Foundation grant enabled the parish to purchase Christmas gifts for 67 children who otherwise would have found no gifts on Christmas morning.
Thanks to a generous grant from The Hughes Foundation, the parish also provides “backpack food” for approximately 130 school children each week. On Friday, the children are given a packet of food that should provide nutrition for them on Saturday and Sunday.
The parish could not function without help from volunteers who served in many ways such a food pickup and distribution, intake, administration and grant writing, sorting and displaying clothing and other items donated to the thrift store, and organization and cleaning of the store. Thanks to a few industrious volunteers, the thrift store is in excellent condition now, which has helped sales increase.
When asked how she got involved, Page explains that she and fellow volunteer Jane Thompson started volunteering for data entry and intake a number of years ago. When the former director left early in 2017, “We filled the void and stayed on. We’re very committed to this mission,” she says.
The parish has two major fund raisers; the golf tournament at Caswell Pines in the fall and the annual fashion show in the spring. The 2020 fashion show will be held Saturday, Mar. 28 at Prospect Methodist Church Fellowship Hall at 1900 US 158 West from 5-8 p.m. Models will wear clothing donated to Two Hearts Thrift Store and a silent auction of baked goods and household items will be featured.
Tickets must be purchased ahead of time and no tickets will be sold at the door. Groups may reserve a table of 6-8 seats for an additional donation of $20. Tickets are $15 per person or $25 for a couple. Clothing will be available after the fashion show.
Sometimes individuals become major fundraisers. The parish is grateful to vocalist Taylor Hudson for providing a benefit concert that raised over $2,282. He was joined on December 21 by Grammy winner Elijah Chester on piano at Bethel Christian Church. He is the son of Donna and Tim Hudson of Caswell County.
Food is distributed on Tuesday and Thursday each week with clients able to get food there every month. “There are also a few other food pantries in the area that distribute food once monthly,” states Page.
There are 22,000 people in Caswell County with many of them benefiting from the food banks in the area.
Caswell Company Parish Inc. is located at 1038 Main Street and is open Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Call 336-694-6428 for more information.