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An Illinois church’s food pantry ministry is meeting needs outside and inside the congregation, both feeding the hungry and providing a new assignment to a group of retired seniors.

Twice a week, City Temple Assembly of God, pastored by Al and Cindi Langston, opens its doors to distribute food and clothing to Madison County. According to church secretary Lisa Henry, the pantry in Granite City serves between 500 and 600 families a month.

Each family leaves with three or four boxes of food. On the fourth Thursday of each month, families are encouraged to return and participate in the mobile market. Anyone in need may come to the mobile market and leave with another couple of boxes of food.

Historically, Granite City had a thriving steel industry. However, an economic downturn in the 1980s resulted in layoffs and the closure of some industrial plants and commercial businesses. Those tough times continue to impact the community today.

“Even though Granite City is trying to recover and rise above, there are still many financially hurting families,” Henry says.

This reality motivated those at City Temple to take action. Former City Temple Pastor Richard Cope envisioned a food pantry run by the seniors of the church. Vicki Baxter brought the vision to reality in 2009. In 2011, Joe and Valerie Pearman stepped in to lead the pantry’s volunteer efforts.

The pantry is quickly outgrowing its space at the church. Henry, a food ministry volunteer herself, says church leaders hope to eventually have a separate building designed especially for the pantry.           

As many as 40 volunteers, primarily seniors, help throughout the week with various tasks, including collecting food, stocking shelves, greeting visitors, doing paperwork, distributing food, praying for families, and cleaning up.

Some volunteers come in wheelchairs or walkers. Others have various ailments or don’t always feel well. But all share the same passion to show the compassion of Christ to the needy.

Sharon Woodson volunteers with her husband, James, in the kitchen, where they organize produce for distribution. Although James has a heart condition and is on oxygen, he doesn’t let that stop him from serving.

“He can sit down and sort and divide the food up,” Sharon says. “He’d be lost without it.”

Being able to help those who are struggling and see the impact makes the work rewarding, according to volunteer Voyle Rushing.

“If I can do anything to make them smile or maybe forget about their problems for just a little while, I feel like I’ve done my job,” Rushing says.

The Langstons can tell just by looking at the faces of those at the distributions that they are hungry for more than just physical food.

“It is our goal as we reach out into the community to meet spiritual needs with as much love and passion as the physical needs,” Henry says.

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