For the last eight years, the third Saturday of each month at Orange City United Methodist Church is a special time for missionaries there to show their love for the community.
Folks who are homeless or in need can visit the Third Saturday Community Connection at the church for a variety of services, from haircuts to hearty meals, prayer time, and additions to their wardrobes and pantries.
“It goes back to a young pastor who came up with the idea,” said Sue Remington, who now oversees the ministry for this Central Florida church.
“It’s just amazing on those mornings to see how everything just flows. We found we have a bunch of people that, even though we don’t let them in until 10:30, will be out waiting at 8 or 8:15 a.m. because they want to be number one in the door.”
The response has been so great that the church began drawing names for some of the most popular services, like haircuts. Because there is limited time, leaders wanted to ensure everyone had a fair chance at the cuts.
Some come to get their blood pressure and cholesterol checked, while others head to the prayer corner or to get their hot lunch and socialize with people.
But there is one thing that each person receives.
“We have an amazing lady, Margaret Fletcher, she’s 90 years old and she greets every person and gives every person a hug before they get their groceries,” Remington said. “If she is not there, everyone is asking about her.”
The hot lunch menu varies, from tacos one week to a Thanksgiving feast on another. Sometimes, it’s burgers and fries.
A lot of folks find the ministry through word of mouth. They share information with their friends, who turn around and share it with others.
Local businesses occasionally hold food drives to help out. One group from Advent Health recently volunteered to sort canned goods and other non-perishable items that came from a Fidelity Ameris Bank food drive. What is not donated is purchased by the church.
The monthly church event easily draws 40 volunteers.
“It’s a lot of the same people and then some,” Remington said. “I have at least ten people that work with me in the food pantry. There are at least eight that are working in the clothing area, probably eight or 10 in the kitchen and three on intake, plus a greeter.”
There also is Mail Call at the church once a week. Homeless in the community use the church’s address to receive mail.
Church members, most of whom are retired, also collect coupons to give to families in need.
“It’s really amazing to see how it how it all comes together,” Remington said. “People come because they know they can get what they need, and they know that it is a safe place.”
--Yvette C. Hammett is a freelance writer in Valrico