First Baptist Church of Leland’s Food Bank Nourishment for Body and Soul
Bill Carne walks past the carefully organized loaves of bread and bagged fruits at the First Baptist Church of Leland’s Food Bank. A few volunteers gently roll out boxes on red dollies, while others set up computers for check-in. Amid this quiet flurry of activity, the 83-year-old Leland resident cruises through the gathering hall, pausing to shake hands with a volunteer. Each volunteer wears a bright, carrot-orange shirt and clearly printed name badge.
Carne points volunteer Thom Becker’s badge and smiles.
“That’s so if someone has a problem, they can come give me his name,” he quips. He wants to know exactly how things go down at this food bank — and for good reason, too. The First Baptist Church of Leland Food Bank is one of the largest in Brunswick County, and he leads this group with precision and love, as only a seasoned, retired pastor can do.
Carne holds up a manila folder and carefully runs down the list of meats recently purchased from Food Lion at 19 cents per pound. He is there to lend his knowledge, care for the volunteers and feed hungry families. He runs this food bank like a well-oiled machine; he has to as it serves up to 170 people per hour.
Carne has led missions in Indonesia and he led a congregation in California for 28 years. When he retired, he came to First Baptist Church of Leland and worked to shape the food bank into the reliable and much-needed pantry it is today.
In the beginning they aided roughly 30 families. By January of 2018 that number had grown to 150 families.
He motions to the handful of people who have already begun to line up outside the door. “We are making a difference in their week. They don’t go hungry.”
First Baptist Church of Leland Food Bank makes distributions during a short yet efficient two-hour window on the first and third Saturdays of every month. They stay busy throughout the week, too, sorting through vegetables, picking up freshly donated bread from Bimbo Bakeries in Castle Hayne and stacking miscellaneous donations from the CVS down the road.
On a day like this, when large groups of volunteers are helping, this compassionate group is able to take on some of the more physical work, giving Carne time for accounting and paperwork. And there is a lot of paperwork.
“These files right here: each folder has an inventory sheet,” he says as he opens the drawer and flips through the materials. “We keep everything dated and timed — every pound, every ounce is accounted for.” He points to the clearly tabulated sheets, much like ones found in the restaurant industry. If the pantry were to be inspected by the Department of Health today, no doubt it would earn bonus points and a gold star for organization and cleanliness.
He opens one of the three refrigerators, revealing shelves packed with sausages, ground beef, turkey bacon and whole chickens. “Food lion will give 20 pounds of meat. We mark the records, invoice them once a week. Here,” he points to the sheet “we had 177 pounds on the seventh of January.”
“We feed our families. They get a full balanced diet. We make sure of that,” he states, and then heads into the back room.
He motions to the wooden shelves lining the walls of a cramped space. “This little place is where it all started. Just 10 feet of storage — about 600 square feet. But then we moved out into the fellowship hall — the big room. They even moved the stage so we could get more space. We needed it.”
As they transport and store nearly 60 tons of food annually, the space is well served. The most recent estimate from the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina puts the number of people who are food insecure in Brunswick County at 17,290.
Why exactly has the need for food assistance grown so much in Brunswick County? Is it the boom in population? Is it word of mouth that food banks exist? Is it the economy?
“I think it’s a little bit of all those things,” says retired engineer and food bank volunteer Thom Becker. He says the stories he and other volunteers hear from families can be heartbreaking but also full of courage.
While the food bank has no problem keeping a steady stream of volunteers, the main issue is keeping monetary donations steady. Carne says that some of the biggest issues are maintaining funding for the things many don’t consider when it comes to maintaining a food bank.
“We have trucks on the road. We make pickups every Tuesday and Thursday. We have to get the cars tuned-up, put gas in the tank. It adds up,” he says.
He encourages any community members who have thought about volunteering to give it a try, emphasizing that the food bank is grateful for monetary donations so that this well-oiled engine can keep trucking down the highway of hope.
An infectious spirit of charity compels these congregates of First Baptist Church of Leland to show up every week and help their neighbors in their time of need. Like the sign on the fellowship wall states: “Connect with others. Change the world.”
Want to help?
If you would like to make a gift to the First Baptist Church of Leland Food Bank, stop by or mail your donation to Food Bank, First Baptist Church of Leland, 517 Village Road NE, Leland, NC 28451. Visit the website at fbcleland.org.