Mt. Vernon Register-News


October 29, 2011

Local food pantry offers help

Twenty years ago a woman at the First United Methodist Church stood up and asked a question of its members. John Hicks, chairman of the Angels on Assignment Food Pantry, said the woman stated she was aware of a family in need and surely a church of this size could aid.

And that, according to Hicks, was the beginning of what would evolve into Angels on Assignment.

“It started in the church basement with financial aid to people and families once every six months,” said Hicks. “People would come in who couldn’t be helped financially. They began giving those folks bags of groceries. Now the pantry is the biggest thing that we do.”

AOA was previously located in a two-story building just east of the First United Methodist Church. Earlier this year, its location was moved to the corner of 12th and Broadway Streets.

The new location is divided into three sections under an umbrella ministry: A thrift shop, financial assistance and food pantry. The church funds all expenses for the building, which allows all funds and donations received by, and through AOA to go directly to those in need.

The umbrella ministry is an all-volunteer operation, funded by donations from smaller churches not large enough to operate such an endeavor and memorials.

“Our food bill is probably $1,200 to $1,800 a month,” Hicks said. “We serve probably 80-120 clients every Friday from 9-11 a.m.”

That translates to nearly 300 clients being served, he added. The pantry operates with 18-20 volunteers each Friday. It is supplied by Central Illinois Food Bank in Springfield and the United States Department of Agriculture, located within the food bank.

Also on Fridays, Angels on Assignment conducts financial assistance interviews for basic needs including rent or utilities. A person must be a Jefferson County resident for six months to qualify.

Its thrift shop includes donated items from individuals and retail outlets. Funds raised through thrift help fund financial assistance programs.

“A lot of people like to talk about doing good. But the volunteers are doing as Christ — serving the needy,” said First United Methodist Church pastor Victor Long. “Our people help other people face-to-face, hands-on. That’s the thing that impresses me.”

“Anyone in the community can come and serve with us,” said Long. “It’s a ministry of the church but all help is welcome.”

Long said AOA has become a signature ministry, “It’s what we want to be known by.”

Text Only

Local Photo