A city-wide food sharing drive run by Maranatha Christian Reformed Church in Belleville, Ont., collected much more than they expected for three local charities April 25. It all began when the Holy Spirit prompted member Wilma Van Schelven to “do something for our city.”
In late March, when the Province of Ontario declared a state of emergency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Schelven, 70, complied with the directive for older citizens to stay socially isolated at home. Sensing God’s prompting to show his love in a hurting world, Van Schelven prayed for direction about what she could do, safely, to help. She shared her prayer conversation with Dave Botting, the pastor of Maranatha CRC, along with the conviction that the congregation could organize a food drive for the city of Belleville. Botting took the proposal to the church council, which agreed and offered full support.
Van Schelven followed up with local organizations offering food to the hungry: The Salvation Army, which runs a hot lunch program; Gleaners Food Bank; and Grace Inn, a homeless shelter that provides meals for the adults who shelter there. All three were happy to accept food gathered through the drive. Then Van Schelven contacted local police and public health officials to ensure that the food drive arrangements met all social distancing requirements. Church council informed every Maranatha member by email or telephone. Local radio stations advertised the event, and it was widely shared on Facebook.
The congregation responded gladly. Van Schelven said they had more people volunteer than they could use, “as we needed to observe social distancing.” One woman made face masks for the volunteers; others offered pickup trucks and vans to carry the donated food. During the three-hour event in the church parking lot, church members and many others contributed over 3,300 pounds of food and more than $65,000 CDN. The money came in the form of checks, some made out to the recipient organizations, others to Maranatha Church, which is dividing and forwarding the designated funds.
“We were very surprised and happy when Wilma contacted us about the food drive,” said Rob Crisp, executive director of Grace Inn. “We are very pleased with the city’s response. I understand that funds are still coming in, and now total $79,000.”
Van Schelven, too, was pleased. “God is so good!” she said. “We were able to help the organizations with food and money. We were able to show the community that we care about the city we live in.”