By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Large rubber containers sitting on the floor of the United Methodist Church in Sea Isle City were filled to the brim with vegetables, cereal, pasta, rolls, butter, canned goods, bags of red potatoes and much, much more.
“We actually have to use a dolly to take these outside because they’re so heavy,” Melissa Doyle-Waid, the church pastor, explained of all the containers.
Doyle-Waid and a group of volunteers were busy getting the food ready on Thursday morning to donate to 25 local families for Thanksgiving. Frozen turkeys were also part of the meals.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is clear that not everyone will be able to celebrate the holiday in the traditional manner – with plenty of food on the table to share with family and friends.
However, United Methodist Church is once again teaming up with local organizations, businesses and private donors in a communitywide effort to distribute free turkeys and food baskets to families in need for Thanksgiving.
Doyle-Waid estimated that each of the rubber containers held enough food to sustain the families for about a week.
“We never, ever have to tell people no,” she stressed.
She noted that about 90 percent of the people served by the church’s food pantry – established in 2013 by Doyle-Waid’s late mother, Donna Doyle – are among the working poor.
“They pay all of their bills and there’s nothing left,” she said of some people not having enough money to buy food.
The pantry at United Methodist Church is part of the Cape May County food bank network, so it serves people throughout the county, not just in Sea Isle. A room inside the church at 4102 Central Ave. has been converted into a pantry offering free food.
Doyle-Waid expressed her gratitude to the local community for an outpouring of support and all of the donations to the food pantry, not only at Thanksgiving, but year-round. Next up, the church’s food pantry will be getting ready to distribute free meals at Christmas for families in need – thanks to the generosity of the community.
“I love this community. They always come through, because they have tremendous hearts,” Doyle-Waid said. “The nice thing is, it’s not just the church doing this. It’s all of the organizations. We all work together to meet the needs of the community.”
Terry Moore, a member of Sea Isle’s VFW Post 1963, was one of the volunteers Thursday who were helping to get the food ready. Moore’s wife, Peggy, is the president of the VFW’s Auxiliary.
“This makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing,” Moore said of helping out at the food pantry. “My parents taught me about doing the right thing. You’ve got to give back.”
Bobbie Freiberg, another volunteer, said she wanted to help out with the Thanksgiving dinners as part of her commitment “to do a good deed” every day, especially when she can help families that are struggling.
“It’s the holidays and family time. You shouldn’t have to struggle for food,” Freiberg said.
Although Sea Isle and other neighboring beach resorts are known as vacation havens crowded with multimillion-dollar oceanfront homes, there are pockets of poverty scattered throughout Cape May County.
Rising food costs have compounded the economic hardships by making it even more difficult for working people and others to pay their grocery bills, Doyle-Waid pointed out.
“Just because you don’t have a lot of money doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to provide food for your children,” she said.
A letter that is included in the food containers describes United Methodist Church’s partnership for food donations with organizations such as the Mahjong Ladies Club, VFW Post 1963, the VFW’s Auxiliary, the Sea Isle City Garden Club, the Women’s Civic Club and many individual donors throughout the community.
Doyle-Waid also expressed her thanks to the local AARP chapter, the Commodore Club and the Sea Isle City Boy Scouts Troop for their donations and help.
The letter also speaks about the importance of God in helping people to cope with difficult times, especially “when there isn’t enough money to buy food.”
In one of the closing lines, the letter assures the families who are getting the donated food that the local community is united in extending a helping hand for those in need.
“People truly care about you and want to make things better for you and your family,” the letter says.
Pastor Melissa Doyle-Waid is encouraging people who need food to reach out to the United Methodist Church pantry. They may call the church at (609) 263-3353, visit its Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/UnitedMethodistChurchOfSeaIsleCity/ or text Doyle-Waid at (609) 231-4929.