Westside food distribution

Volunteers help to distribute food during a drive-thru giveaway held each Wednesday by the Westside Church of the Nazarene’s Tullahoma Family Food Ministry, which is partnering with the Montana Drive-In to help solve hunger issues in the community.  The food-distribution events will be held for families in need during the pandemic each Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. at the Montana Drive-In, located at 10251 Tullahoma Hwy. in Estill Springs. Volunteers pack food in the vehicles so participants can remain in their cars.

The Westside Church of the Nazarene’s Tullahoma Family Food Ministry recently partnered with the Montana Drive-In to distribute food to help solve hunger issues in the local community.

The food-distribution events will continue to be held during the pandemic each Wednesday from 2-4 p.m. at the Montana Drive-In, located at 10251 Tullahoma Hwy. in Estill Springs.

“We’ve been giving  food away at my church for a little more than a year,” coordinator David Statum said, “We outgrew our parking lots, so we asked Beth Rhoton, who owns the drive-in, if we could move there.”

The location is an ideal place to hold the event as food is distributed in a drive-through manner and placed in car trunks by volunteers, allowing people to stay in their cars while driving through lanes.

April 8 was the church’s first day to distribute food at the drive-in. An estimated 500 cars meandered their way through the lanes to collect food.

Beth Rhoton, owner of the Montana Drive-In, said: “We were excited by the opportunity to partner with them and help them with a suitable location, try to help raise some money for food and, of course, volunteer to make it happen.”

Reliable Rental Franklin County is supplying the equipment to help unload food trucks.

“We’re serving about 1,500 families and sharing about 100,000 pounds of food each week,” Statum said.

The church desires to spread God’s love in the community through this effort.

“It’s an honor to help our families, friends and neighbors. That’s what we’re called to do, to love our neighbors, and what better way is there to share God’s love than to help our community,” Statum said.

He describes the distribution of food as a tangible gospel that brings people together.

“There is no division among us because of religious preferences or racial identity—those walls fall down when we realize that our greater purpose is greater than individual differences. We are one family, working together to help our community,” Statum said.

 Statum wants to make it clear that the food provided is not charity.

“There’s nothing charitable about what we do. Family takes care of family,” he said.

Statum said volunteers even distribute flowers as they go through the line.

“We work really hard to help make everyone feel like family. We want everyone to feel comfortable. It’s a very humbling experience to ask for help, but we’ve all needed help at times,” he said.

The church holds a family meeting and meal with all their volunteers before each food-distribution event with their church chaplain, Richard Reed.

“We have a few safety precautions we are taking because of coronavirus, but we are mainly keeping things the same at the church,” Statum said. “The police chief helped us out with making an efficient parking plan.”

Trucks with pallets of food arrive at the drive-in each Wednesday morning and volunteers then off-load and sort items.

Pallets are lined up for the entire length of the back row of the drive-in’s largest screen. To avoid a traffic jam on the main road, cars drive through single file and zig-zag through lanes using existing poles at the establishment.

“As they come through the ticket booth area, we have volunteers that assess how many families are represented in each car. They then place a paper under their wiper telling the volunteers how much food to give,” Rhoton said.

 The church supplies empty boxes for the food at the start of the line. But those who have boxes at home may bring them.

Food trucks are continually bringing in more food which is then placed in two lines down each side of the pallets with volunteers on each side to place food in trunks.

Ways you can help

A lot of people need help at this time, so do not hesitate to accept help if needed. And please check to see if neighbors, friends, and families may be in need of food.

Be reasonable when shopping at area stores and don’t hoard supplies.

If you are still working and can donate food or money to food banks, please continue to do so.

Westside Church of the Nazarene has a GoFundMe page as well as a PayPal account at www.paypal.me/familyfoodmin for those who are able to give in order to help with their effor