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Live Oak ministry helps ease hunger
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Local Food Lion associates and Live Oak church volunteers bring food into the church’s food pantry. - photo by Denise Etheridge

Live Oak Church of God takes the Gospel to heart by feeding the hungry through its food pantry, Joseph Ministries. 

“We don’t got to work, we get to work,” is the motto food pantry volunteers live by, according to Christi Cowart, helps ministries coordinator and wife of Live Oak’s pastor, Aaron Cowart. 

The congregation’s devotion to serving food insecure families in the community was noticed by America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, who then nominated the food pantry for Food Lion’s 2018 Great Pantry Makeover, according to Jamie Kendall, Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia COO. The church’s food pantry purchases much of its food from Second Harvest at a reduced cost.

“We chose a food pantry doing great work that needs assistance,” Kendall said. 

Joseph Ministries was one of 30 food pantries across 10 states to receive makeovers in September, Hunger Action Month. Due to hurricanes that ravaged Georgia and Florida, the plaque presentation from Food Lion and truckload of donated food was delayed until Nov. 13, said Food Lion spokesman Benny Smith. Smith said Food Lion awarded a $5,000 check to Live Oak in September, so the church could purchase a new commercial grade freezer and fridge to store perishable foods.

“Giving back to our communities is part of who we are at Food Lion and something we care deeply about,” said Meg Ham, president of Food Lion. “This year’s Great Pantry Makeover effort is focused on expanding the capacity of these local feeding agencies to distribute fresh, nutritious food so their clients can nourish their families and set them up for success. I know our associates are excited to give back to the communities they call home and I can’t wait to see the results.”

Hinesville’s Food Lion associates worked side-by-side with church members to unload the food truck from America’s Second Harvest, and to stock Joseph Ministries food pantry shelves, freezer and fridge. Food Lion donated three pallets of food for last week’s food distribution, Live Oak Church pastor Aaron Cowart said. 

“This week we’re trying to give them (clients) a little more for Thanksgiving,” he said. Cowart said in addition to local families who register for food distribution, the church assists 11 of its own families experiencing hard times by giving them a full Thanksgiving meal. He said Live Oak also provides food for Thanksgiving to survivors of domestic violence at a shelter for battered women in Liberty County.

Aaron and Christi Cowart said the food pantry has expanded to keep up with an increasing demand from Liberty and Long county families experiencing hunger.

“Since May 2017, the number of clients we serve has doubled,” Christi Cowart said.

“We fed 117 families last Tuesday,” Aaron Cowart said. “We feed an average of 300-350 families a month.”

The Cowarts said church members are generous with their time by volunteering at the food pantry, both to prepare ahead for food distributions and on distribution days, and by donating money to remodel and expand the facility. Cowart said his mother and sister also volunteer each week at the food pantry.

The Joseph Ministries food pantry is open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to noon. People wishing to drop off donated food items can come by the church office from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Aaron Cowart said the church has also partnered with other agencies, like United Way, and businesses like Ameris Bank. Christi Cowart added that Ameris recently donated 17,792 food items to the food pantry.

The pastor said Live Oak has also referred families in need to other area organizations that can help, like Manna House in Hinesville, and the city of Hinesville’s Homeless Prevention Program. He said New Beginnings church in Ludowici conducts a monthly food distribution. According to New Beginnings’ website, the church distributes food from 9 a.m. to noon the third Saturday of the month. 

Aaron Cowart said Live Oak also operates a clothing closet and has donated furniture to families in need.

For more information about how you can help, call the Live Oak church office at 912-876-8769.

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