If you visit the Philabundance Hunger Relief Center in South Philadelphia on any given Tuesday or Friday morning, you’ll find a host of trucks, vans, and cars gathering along Pattison Avenue. On those set days throughout the year, our Community Partner representatives line up early, some even before the sun comes up, to pick up fresh, nutritious food from our “HUB.” Items include fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meats. Our wonderful warehouse staff and volunteers welcome the drivers starting 8am to help them load their respective vehicles for transport back to their community distribution sites.
Alphonso Foxworth is a volunteer driver for Mizpah Seventh Day Adventist Church which is nestled in the Frankford section of North Philadelphia. His passion and commitment to helping feed his community members in need is remarkable, and our HUB volunteers are noticing.
“Mizpah is always the first one here. You can never beat them here. If he’s not here when the people pull up, they think it’s closed,” explained Howard Williams, a HUB volunteer.
Alphonso said he feels a strong need to give back to his neighbors.
“I do this day in and day out. My only day off, only rest day, is Saturday. I love doing this. We got to help our people. My sister got me started with the program and she’s doing a great job with her and her crew,” he said.
Vernessa Wilson is Alphonso’s sister as well as the Mizpah’s Food Pantry Coordinator. She’s also the driving force behind the program and offers a ray of sunshine to everyone she serves.
“My brother, he retired, he had nothing to do, and I needed a driver. He’s been on board with me. I cannot do this work without him,” she explained. “All of my volunteers are excellent. You would think they’re coming to work to get a paycheck. They’re not.”
Miss Shiree, a loyal volunteer at Mizpah’s food pantry, has also benefitted from the food program and has nothing but positive things to say.
“Getting food for other people makes you be involved. By the time the 15th of the month comes, you’re out of sugar and butter, and this and that. There’s no reason for anybody to starve in the United States,” she said. “They [Philabundance] have really, really taken care of the people. It’s always coming. That’s what Philabundance is all about.”
With tears in her eyes, Miss Shiree touched on how welcoming the Mizpah volunteers are, and how they help ease their neighbors’ nervousness during food distribution days.
“When you’re not used to coming to places like this, you kinda feel funny and out of place,” she said. “The people here bring that smile. That smile makes you feel like ‘Ok, I can do this.’ If I can do this, you can do this. If you can do it, we all can do it for each other.”
Like Miss Shiree, Miss LeeAnne has also benefitted greatly through the food distribution program.
“My boyfriend cannot get out. I took him from a wheelchair back to walking and that’s really helped us out. I come here every Tuesday and get the food here and I also pick up his senior box once a month for him,” she said. “It costs me a fortune at the grocery store anymore. It’s too much. It’s just hard for us right now making the bills.”
“This is so important because the need is so great. We serve a lot of senior citizens and they’re on fixed incomes. They’re so grateful to receive the food that Philabundance supplies us with.” said Vernessa. “It is my honor; it is my duty to do this. As long as God gives me breath in my body, we’re going to continue to do this.”
Miss Shiree said she appreciates everything Vernessa and her team provide for her and her neighbors in need. Other community services Mizpah offers include clothing for men, women, and children, spiritual guidance, helpful resources, and special friends and family days open to all.
“I never had food abundance like this before. My cupboard was always bare at a certain time.” With an enormous smile on her face while giving a big thumbs up, she added, “I’m glad I don’t look like what I’ve been through. Hopefully Philabundance will let me in to volunteer, and the first thing I’m going to bring is a smile!”
To learn more about Mizpah and find out how you can help, visit Mizpah Seventh Day Adventist Church.