Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church is spicing it up
Imagine relying on a local food pantry to make ends meet for your family. Common nonperishable food enables your family to have oatmeal or dry cereal for breakfast and perhaps pasta and sauce for dinner. Some food pantries such as Saratoga Springs’ Franklin Community Center, supply perishable goods as well. Over 900 individuals who rely on this food pantry to conquer hunger can add fresh dairy products, meat, and veggies to their meals.
Still, flavor would make a meal so much more enjoyable for these families, right? As Debbie Martin, Franklin Community Center’s office manager said, “Who would want broccoli without seasoning?”
Julie Slovic, the Franklin Community Center Food Program Administrator, added, “Using spices is a great alternative to salt, and so much better for one’s health.”
Enter Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church (SSUMC). For over two decades, they have been partnering with Franklin Community Center, a non-profit that provides many community services such as an afterschool program for at-risk youth, clothing and furniture distribution, efficiency apartments for low-income individuals, and an expanding food pantry.
This year, SSUMC, made a New Year’s Resolution for the church to focus on performing Random Acts of Kindness throughout the entire year. The idea came from a small group, which meets every Thursday morning, called Joy in the Morning. The group was doing a journal exercise from the book A Year of Kindness by Dr. Pamela Parskey, where each day, the readers wrote about their acts of kindness and gratitude.
Donna Bjork, the leader of the Joy in the Mornings small group, said, “We talked about spreading Random Acts of Kindness in our church. Our ministers (Rev. Andrew (Drew) Sperry and Rev. Heather Williams) took it and flew. They created a year-long journey of Random Acts of Kindness and we created a wall, so people could write down some of the things they are doing (on post-it notes).”
Donna continued, “It helps alleviate some of the things you hear in the media; it shows that people can do good and spend time helping others. This really began as an individual thing and it doesn’t have to be something big; it can be simple, like buying a friend a cup of coffee.”
The idea of the Random Acts of Kindness initiative as an individual-focused project has extended to involve bigger projects, and the Spice Drive is one of them.
Pastor Drew serves on the Franklin Community Center’s board. He recently saw Julie demonstrate the different types of meals that families could put together.
Pastor Drew said, “During the presentation from Julie, I was amazed by how obvious the needs of those who receive assistance from the community center are, and yet how I’ve been so un aware! I never thought about the need for items like spices, cooking oils, or seasoning packets. I remember instantly thinking SSUMC can help with this.
Despite my amazement at my ignorance to basic needs, I am always doubly amazed by SSUMC’s generosity! Last year we donated over 3,500 pounds of food to Franklin! This year through our attention to Random Acts of Kindness, I believe we double that, and add to it an assortment of spices that will provide great-tasting meals for folks regardless of their economic situation.”
During a get-together that SSUMC has every month, called Third Thursdays, where members of the church gather for an informal Potluck, Pastor Drew mentioned the Franklin Community Center’s board meeting and some of their needs.
Laura Lecour, SSUMC lay leader, attended this Third Thursday. She said, “Pastor Drew told us that Franklin’s food pantry had a need for spices. This immediately caught our Third Thursday group’s attention and we thought, ‘Hey, we could do this as one of our big Random Acts of Kindness projects.’
That’s where our spice drive was born.
Spices started showing up immediately. We are continuing this for the month of April. I think we will overwhelm Franklin with spices.”
Because of SSUMC setting the intention to perform Random Acts of Kindness, ideas like the Spice Drive are constantly emerging.
SSUMC is bringing flavor to the bland foods that families who rely on food pantries are accustomed to. Laura said, “It’s great to have food; it’s nice to have your food taste good. To have poultry seasoning or to bake and have cinnamon for example, are things we take for granted—they all cost money. Some families cannot afford those things.”
Julie added, “We also have a Blue Door Chef Special (like Blue Apron) where a recipe and all ingredients are included for people who use the food pantry. The spices we receive from SSUMC will also keep our Blue Door Chef Special going for quite a while, which in turn brings a smile to our customers.”
Donating spices to the Franklin Community Center is one simple way that SSUMC members are being God’s love to their neighbors in all places.