Members of the Nolensville’s Providence Baptist Church student ministry filled over 160 Thanksgiving donation boxes on Wednesday to support those in need through the Nolensville Food Pantry.
“This year we’re doing more families than we have ever done. We’re going to be doing a 160 families,” Providence Ministry Assistant Debbie Noland said. “Maybe a few more. Always a few more trickle in.”
Noland leads the food pantry effort and said that the Thanksgiving box stuffing has been an annual event for the past nine years, beginning as a shopping center-style experience.
As the number of recipients grew the student ministry stepped up to help church leaders pack the boxes in a continues assembly line of instant mashed potatoes, gravy mix, green beans and stuffing mix.
“We helped alongside Mama’s Java for a long time and then basically it kind of all runs into the pantry and Mama’s Java helps up. Mama’s Java is one of our best supporters," Noland said.
While the scene of 160 boxes stuffed with goods is energetic and can seem frantic, Noland reminded students that one of the most important things to keep in mind is that they were packing the boxes with care and respect just as they would for a loved one.
“Toilet paper, paper towels, washing powders and stuff like that," Noland said. "There will be basically everything you need to make a Thanksgiving meal with your family and we’ll also give them a turkey and a pan to put it in.”
17-year-old Katie Shanks has been attended Providence Baptist Church for the past 11 years and has participated in the box stuffing for several years.
“You focus on getting see your family and all of that, but then you forget that there’s other people who might not be able to,” Shanks said. “It’s just good to be able to remember everyone.”
Chad Hunter, Student and Worship Pastor, said that every year he hears that this is just one less thing that recipients have to worry about, a gesture that he said can bring tears on both sides.
“Our discipleship strategy at Providence is gather, grow, serve and go, and we believe that all of those things are important,” Hunter said. “It’s about serving one another and serving the community and putting others needs above our own.”
The donation-driven pantry accepts monetary donations as well as food collected on-site and through various fundraisers.
“I think it’s really important to let people who are coming into the community know that if they are having a hard time that their community loves them, the church loves them, the organizations, and businesses, because so many of them support us,” Noland said. “We’ve had so many businesses here lately doing food drives, gather up different things, having fundraisers. It’s just nice to know that your community loves you.”
Noland said that the pantry and its Thanksgiving and Christmas food drives are a place where people can come free of judgement.
“They can come in here and don’t have to worry about being embarrassed, we don’t ask any questions. If they want to tell us their whole story then they can, but it’s just a good place to come,” Noland said.
Family emergencies, loss of a job or just a rough patch in life, Noland said that they’ve seen it all and understand that sometimes life is hard for everyone.
“Everybody goes through a hard time at some point in their life,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you live in a small house or a large house — if you lose your job it doesn’t take a long not to be able to pay for it... Food falls on the back-burner and that’s what we’re here for.”
The boxes will be picked up by families on Thursday in time for all of the cooking ahead of Thanksgiving.
The Nolensville Food Pantry is located at 1668 Sunset Road and is open on Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.