Churches plan ways to feed hungry over holidays

Hannah Grover
Peter Marabella fills bags with food for needy families on Dec. 13, 2014, at ECHO Food Bank in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — With Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, many churches in San Juan County are working to ensure no one goes hungry over the holidays.

One of the area’s larger food drives is a multi-denominational effort. The Farmington Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has teamed up with Catholic Charities for the annual food drive this weekend.

Non-perishable food and non-expired, holiday-oriented foods like canned meats will be collected from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the LDS chapel at 4400 College Blvd. in Farmington.

Collected items will be distributed through the Catholic Charities food pantry and ECHO food bank.

Last year, the food drive raised enough food and money to provide about 24,000 meals, according to Seth Bingham, spokesman for the Farmington Stake.

Other churches are putting together food boxes for holiday meals.

Summit Church in Farmington and First Baptist Church of Bloomfield will distribute Christmas dinner boxes, while a group of Aztec churches has teamed up with the Aztec Municipal School District to provide Thanksgiving dinner boxes.

For Thanksgiving, the Aztec churches have each agreed to donate a certain number of boxes to a school. For example, First Baptist Church of Aztec is planning to donate 10 boxes to Park Avenue Elementary School.

After putting together boxes, the church delivers them to school officials, who then hand out the boxes to families who need them, said Rachel Nichols, who is organizing the holiday boxes for First Baptist Church Aztec.

Tammie Vialpando stacks boxes of stuffing while bagging food for needy families on Dec. 13, 2014, at ECHO Food Bank in Farmington.

Summit Church hopes to hand out 50 boxes, according to Nicole Elder, an administrator for the church. Elder said the boxes include turkey, stuffing, vegetables, bread and desert.

“The size of the box is totally determined by the size of the family,” Elder said.

This is the second year the Farmington church has put together Christmas dinner boxes. Last year, they handed out 62 boxes, Elder said.

To receive a box, families can come to the church, 1200 E. 30th St., and fill out a sheet with information about the size of their family. The church will begin accepting applications on Nov. 30 and will distribute the boxes Dec. 20.

First Baptist Church of Bloomfield has already started receiving requests for its Christmas dinner boxes. In the last few years, the church has distributed 35 to 40 boxes a year, according to Pastor Craig Montroy.

In addition to distributing Christmas boxes, First Baptist Church of Bloomfield has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the past four years. Last year, the dinner fed about 200 people.

This year’s meal will be served from noon to 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving at the church, 200 W. Sycamore Ave. in Bloomfield.

Rather than opting for paper plates, the church sets out plates, glasses and silverware and decorates for the Thanksgiving dinner.

“It’s a nice setting to come and just have a meal together,” Montroy said.

In addition to the Thanksgiving meal, the church has also teamed up with First Baptist Church of Farmington to host another free holiday meal at 4 p.m. Nov. 23 at the Farmington church, 511 W. Arrington St.

At center, Amy Pritchard, a volunteer with First Baptist Church in Bloomfield, takes orders from clients on Sept. 2 during dinner at Catholic Charities in Farmington. First Baptist Church of Bloomfield is offering several opportunities this holiday season for families to receive a meal.

The holiday season is not the only time people need food assistance, and the San Juan Baptist Association’s Crisis Closet provides year-round help.

Every Monday morning, local Baptists gather to bag groceries and hand them out to people who need food.

The closet also provides clothing, and at this time of year, is seeking donations of jackets and non-perishable food items. Donations can be dropped off at the San Juan Baptist Association office, 1010 Ridgeway Place in Farmington.

The holidays also aren’t the only time local churches offer meals to the community.

A few years ago, First Baptist Church of Bloomfield began serving meals on Monday evenings.

At first, about a dozen people showed up, but now the church serves 100 to 150 people  weekly, Montroy said. He attributes this increase to more people losing their jobs. The majority of people who attend the weekly meals are families with children, he said.

Montroy said his congregation looks to Jesus’ ministry as an example of service. Jesus not only tended to the spiritual wellbeing of his followers but he also cared for their physical wellbeing, he said.

“We just really believe God’s put us in this area as a church to minister and to help people,” Montroy said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.