Story content and photos provided by Hughey Reynolds *
What the Society of St. Andrew does best is make connections that feed people. It takes many people, filling many roles, to create a potato drop. SoSA does this as many as 200 times a year, and each time the benefit to hungry families in the region is miraculous.
On Saturday morning, December 12, a flatbed truck pulled into the parking lot of Asbury UMC in Madison, Alabama. It carried bins loaded with loose sweet potatoes – 40,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. That is the first step in a Society of St. Andrew potato drop. Farmers in Cullman County, 40 miles away, had donated these fresh, surplus potatoes. Madison County Commissioner Robert Harrison arranged for the flatbed that brought the potatoes into the city.
Another Country Commissioner, Steve Haraway, ran the forklift to spread the bins across the lawn so volunteers could bag up the potatoes. More than 150 people showed up to pull potatoes out of the bins and put them into mesh bags, about 5 pounds each, so they would be ready for distribution by area feeding agencies.
That morning, the volunteers had loaded and tied about 7,500 red, mesh bags. As they filled bags, feeding agencies from all over the region arrived in the parking lot with their vans, trucks, and trailers. Each loaded up the amount of food they knew they could quickly distribute to their clients. The list below demonstrates the level of need, the amount of coordination, and the impact of a single potato drop.
• Ardmore Christians Helping Others, 100 bags.
• CASA (Care Assistance System for the Aging,) Jackson County 150 bags.
• Church of God Union Assembly, 60 bags.
• Church of Grace
• Dependable Hands Serving Madison and Limestone Counties, 150 bags.• Downtown Rescue Mission, Huntsville, 300 bags.
• Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church Food Distribution, Athens, 150 bags.
• Faith Mission Russellville, 300 bags.
• Fellowship Presbyterian Food Ministry, Huntsville 150 bags.
• Help Center, Florence, Salvation Army Florence, First Presbyterian Sheffield shared 200 bags.
• Huntsville Area Community Service Center, 150 bags.
• Inside Out Ministry Madison, 50 bags.
• Limestone County Churches Involved, 180 bags.
• Loaves and Fishes, 450 bags
• Madison County Commission Holiday Food Box Program, 1900 bags
• Manna House, Lincoln Village, and Harvest House, 1200 bags. (8 pallets)
• Seeds of Love, Hartselle, 200 bags.
• Tuscumbia Church of Christ, 200 bags.
• WAY-FM Radio, 150 bags.
Rev. Dr. Hughey Reynolds, pastor of First UMC in Decatur, prayed over each ministry as it prepared to leave with its fresh load to feed the hungry. Each truck and van then headed back to its home for unloading and distribution.
The project was coordinated by SoSA Gleaning Coordinator Mary Lynn Botts. As a SoSA coordinator, she brings together all the pieces: farmers, transportation, location, volunteers, bags, and feeding agencies. Rhonda Dahlin, the mission director at Asbury United Methodist Church arranged funding for transportation of the potatoes.
By mid-day the parking lot was cleaned and everyone was on their way. Client families were eating those potatoes as early as that evening, and for weeks to come. That’s the way a SoSA potato drop works, as many as 200 times a year, each one providing more than 100,000 servings of food to those who are most in need.
* Rev. Dr. Hughey Reynolds is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Decatur, Alabama, and is a member of the SoSA Board of Directors.