|Donated food at the AUMC Mission Center on Heritage Drive. |
The mission center hosts food distribution events four days a week with donations from AUMC members.
Demand has skyrocketed since the pandemic took hold. On the center’s busiest days, more than 200 people line up, says Betsy Clevenger, who’s been organizing food distribution for AUMC for the past 11 years.
The center, located in the former the Immanuel United Methodist Church at 7901 Heritage Drive, is within walking distance of some 1,500 lower-income housing units, Clevenger says. That church closed in 2012 due to declining membership, and AUMC acquired the building.
Clevenger recalls how, during the early days of the pandemic, a woman at the end of a long line burst into tears saying, “I’ve never been unemployed before. I’ve never asked for help. I was so scared you would run out of food.”
The bags include ingredients for a family meal – such as pasta and spaghetti sauce – a box of cereal, canned vegetables, canned beans, canned fruit, mac and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and a can of chunky soup. In addition to nonperishable items, families receive eggs, fresh produce, and a half-gallon of milk.
Related story: Food donations help residents of Annandale apartments
SevaTruck provides about 300 burritos on Mondays and Fridays. During the early months of the pandemic, World Central Kitchen, the organization founded by Chef José Andrés, sent hundreds of packaged meals to the mission center for distribution to local families. That effort ended in July when World Food Kitchen shifted its focus to helping communities battered by hurricanes.
The mission center also operates a children’s clothes closet. Now that families can no longer come in and browse, volunteers put together “surprise packages” of six items of the same size to hand out to families twice a month.
|Maribeth Day sorts clothes in the Mission Center's clothes closet. |
On the first Thursday of the month, the center gives out 1,000 diapers donated by Fairfax Diapers. On the second Thursday, it distributes feminine hygiene products from an organization called BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters).
The center also collects donated school supplies for Braddock, Annandale Terrace, and Bren Mar Park elementary schools.
AUMC holds an annual fundraiser to support the Heritage Mission Center and this year received a $10,000 COVID relief grant from Fairfax County to supplement the program.
Everyone who shows up at the center is served, no questions asked and no IDs required. Still, Clevenger is concerned that people don’t come because of worries about immigration agents. That fear is unfounded, and she urges everyone who comes to bring their friends and neighbors.
“This is definitely a needy area,” Clevenger says. “It’s a blessing to me to help people feed their children.”