Central Alabama Church takes its food pantry up a notch
Next “Stop, Pop, Drop & Roll giveaway is May 30
By Fran Thompson
Central Flora-Bama Church has always had a unique relationship with God. For one thing, the non-denominational, Christian church meets at the Flora-Bama, arguably America’s most famous honky-tonk. Beach attire is not only welcome but encouraged during the church’s 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Sunday services (online at 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. currently).
Pastor Rick Long and the congregation gather by the beach at the Alabama – Florida state line to praise the Lord, not judge each other. “It’s Okay to not be Okay” is the way they phrase it on church banners and t-shirts.
“We exist to introduce people to Jesus and help them follow him,” Pastor Long says.
During what has been a deliberating crisis for the entire country, the church has stepped up its efforts to reach out to those in need by adding “Stop, Pop, Drop & Roll” fresh food distribution Saturdays as a supplement to its ongoing food pantry. The next giveaway is May 30 from 8 a.m. -11 a.m in the Flora-Bama parking lot at 17401 Perdido Key Dr.
Church volunteers fill boxes with fresh produce, fresh fruit, eggs, milk, cheese, chicken and pork loin as well as staples such as canned soups and veggies, rice, grits, and pasta.
“I have always enjoyed the opportunity to serve and help others. During these strange times, I hadn’t been presented with many of those opportunities. Participating in these events and doing whatever I can to assist has been as big of a blessing to me as it has been for those we’ve helped,” said Darryl Campbell, one of the volunteers at a recent food giveaway.
The church has partnered with the three Flora-Bama restaurants on the property and Feeding The Gulf Coast to present the food assistance events.
“We feed 125 people a week from the food pantry anyway. But with the help of about 40 volunteers, we’ve been feeding around 500 on Saturdays,’’ Pastor Long said. “The need is much bigger now. We will be feeding families for multiple weeks.’’
The pastor said the volunteers pass out healthy food that recipients are able to freeze when necessary. And if they ask for more than one box, that is what they will get. No questions asked.
“We are helping some good people who were looking for the spring and summer to catch back up from winter when the hammer came down,’’ Pastor Long said.
“We are finding a lot of people who never had a need for this before. These are strong people, and it is hard for them to ask for help. We are here to relieve some of the pressure.’’
Pastor Long said that much of his church’s community service would not be possible without ongoing financial assistance of the Flora-Bama.
“They saw a need and they came to us and said ‘what can we do?’ We did not even have to ask them. The Flora-Bama wanted to be involved and came to us.
“They’ve lost millions of dollars from this (pandemic) and they are still stepping up. I’ve never seen a company so willing to step up for its employees and community’’ he added. “They are incredible people.They had some major things on the books when this happened and they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars just by closing when they did – For wanting to be proactive to protect their employees.
“It’s not just what they do, it’s who they are,’’ he added.
Pastor Long said he is thankful that to his knowledge none of his congregation has contracted Covid-19. But, like the Flora-Bama, he was pro-active in deciding to stop meeting live and he will also be precautionary when live services begin again.
“We will come back as soon as it is safe for everybody. We hope to do something big for the first one,’’ he said.
For more information about the Central Church Food Bank, call Contact Feeding the Gulf Coast at 251-653-1617.
The ongoing Central Church food pantry is open on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. for pick-ups. Food can be dropped off on Sundays and Wednesdays during those same hours.
For a $35 donation, patrons can feed a family of four with an entire week’s worth of food. For more information regarding drop-off or pick-up or sponsorships, call 251-504-9696 or 251-256-0858, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit centralonline.tv/flora-bama.