Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
LAYTON — With the cost of rent, groceries and gas rising with inflation, it can be harder for families to meet basic needs. A Christian congregation giving back to the community by providing food and other necessities to families once a month, is seeing the number of people in need grow each month, and anyone receiving help is very grateful.
"It's really helped us and with everything, all the food prices increasing and products decreasing, you know, it's really hard to buy food when you have ... to stretch everything," Jennifer Noble, a woman who received food and clothing donations on Saturday, said.
She has been getting food through the Love My City Project almost every month, and said the food she receives helps stretch her income so she can feed herself and her disabled husband, in addition to helping her adult son, who is a single dad and recent amputee. She said receiving food from this project helps tremendously.
Noble was even more grateful this month for the added clothing drive so she could take something extra home for her granddaughter.
She said she loves the people involved in the service project and their actions touch her heart.
"I can't thank them enough for what they do for everyone, no questions asked. And now, everybody needs help," Noble said.
Love My City Project, which is put on by the Christian Life Center has been going for five or six years, but has changed and grown especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, Pastor Rob George said. Previously, they would drive to some of the city's low-income apartment complexes, but now they invite families to come to them.
He said they get a lot of food donations from Synergy in Action Network, through Pastor Alfred Murillo, as well as smaller donations from local people and families. They give donations to members of the community once a month, typically on the last Saturday of the month.
The pastor said every donation goes back to the community immediately, whether it is food or money — and they stretch it to make sure they help as many people as possible.
Each month, the number of people coming for assistance grows gradually.
On Saturday, George said the project helped about 200 families, and they came close to running out of food but were able to find other food items to help everyone who came. He said they are preparing for the number of people in need to continue to grow.
"The need is massive all over in our communities. So we're just trying to do whatever we can," he said.
Pastor George said every month, people who come to pick up donations are weeping in their cars.
He said there are no requirements to receive aid, they will help any family in need — no questions and no judgment, which is freeing for many of the people who come.
"Families are paying their bills and they have a lot less money for anything else, and that includes just some extra food," Pastor George said.
He said, thankfully, there are multiple other churches in the area doing similar things, so they never have to turn a family down but can direct them to other resources.
Because of the service his congregation and other volunteers give through this program, George said people are more able to see others in need and show them love. He said it has rallied the congregation together and created a bigger sense of community.
In addition to giving food and clothing, they text people who get the food and follow up on specific challenges they might have shared with project volunteers, which he sees as a way to minister to people outside of the church building.
"There are people out there that may not never set foot in our church, but they call me Pastor. And they think of us as their family," he said.
Volunteers with no connection to the church are welcome to volunteer time or donate goods, and Pastor George said he would also be glad to help others learn how to start a similar project in their own neighborhoods.
Inflation is making life harder for families who need help, but it's also leading middle class families — who typically donate — to have less extra money, causing a dearth in donations, Pastor George said. He said inflation is affecting everybody.
"It's so important to make things happen ... in our country in our state, that are going to take care of the average middle class. And if we don't have things in place that will help them, then we need those who have a greater means to help kind of pick up the slack," he said.
Even those without a lot of spare change can help by donating extra canned or shelf stable foods, or small amounts of money. Pastor George said there was a mom weeping on Saturday after they gave her a $20 Walmart gift card, because it was so significant to her family.
Jim Kinkade and his wife Monica came to volunteer at one of the center's events about two years ago, he said they had "such an amazing experience" that they fell in love with it and have volunteered every month since. They help organize the volunteers and get the food to the people who need it.
His first week, Kinkade was assigned to be a greeter, talking to people in cars before the event. He said it was amazing how willing people were to share their life experiences and challenges.
Lately, he said, people are often mentioning inflation and its obvious that is taking a toll on many of the families. Kinkade said the recipients often talk about how it's harder this year than last year. Aside from the various and diverse backgrounds, all who come are grateful.
"I found it to be very humbling and really quite amazing that they would share, and, you know, that we could just chat for a few minutes," Kinkade said, adding that they get to know the people who come every month. He said one lady always has a joke prepared to share with them, to try to give something back to those who are serving.
Kinkade said he would encourage everyone to help others, to just be observant and aware enough to check on people and ask what they need.
The next donation day is a week early, on Aug. 20, to include back-to-school items for children before school starts. Pastor George said they gave away more than 200 backpacks in under 15 minutes last year; and, this year they are hoping to involve the city, to build up donations and be able to help even more children.