By Kaylee Cook 

The folks at Live Forgiven Church in Sylva feel everyone deserves to be able to celebrate the holidays without worrying about whether or not they can afford to put food on the table.

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Live Forgiven Food Ministry is working to ensure that members of the community are able to enjoy a hot meal with their families come turkey day.

The ministry hosted a Thanksgiving themed curbside grocery and winter coat giveaway on Sunday, Nov. 14 in preparation for the holiday. The bags of food they distributed contained traditional Thanksgiving foods including canned vegetables, stuffing, turkey gravy mix, a bread mix, cranberry sauce and a dessert.

The church has hosted monthly giveaways since March of 2014, with the only exception being in March of 2020 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they didn’t let the pandemic stop them from helping people in need, especially during the height of the pandemic.

“During the first part of the pandemic, we held weekly and then bi-monthly grocery giveaways until our community began reopening,” Ministry Coordinator Crystal Akers said. “Currently, we are hosting a monthly grocery giveaway. We maintain a food pantry and have served individuals in the community between the giveaways during some months.”

The food ministry’s supplies of both funding and in-date groceries primarily come from the Sylva church’s congregation, but help from outside community members is also always welcome.

“On occasion we also have donations of funds, gift cards, shelf stable groceries, or produce from a garden from individuals in the community that we know who want to bless our community,” Akers said. “We have even received donations from other churches or ministries who have things to share.”

The amount of people who come through the giveaways typically varies each month, however, the church planned on creating 30-40 bags for each upcoming month and estimated that they would give out about 30 bags during the 45 minute drive through the Sunday pickup.

The biggest need the church has seen in this community has been products such as meat, milk, eggs and foods that have a long shelf life.

“Shelf stable foods may be highly processed or require extra items that individuals experiencing food insecurity cannot obtain within their resources,” Akers said. “This can vary from month to month so if an individual asks for something in particular, we consider if we can offer the item. We also try to rotate what we give.”

Coats and shoes have been two of the biggest clothing needs for people within the community.

“My daughter noticed when she was young that many people who came to the grocery giveaway had shoes on during the winter that did not keep their feet warm, such as flip flops or canvas slide-ons,” Akers said. “We had also noticed how many of those same people had layers of sweatshirts on or long sleeves and flannel. When we began offering coats, we were happy to see how helpful it really was to the people who were coming in.”

The church will receive any size of coat, but they often try to find at least one of every size and style to accommodate for the variety of individuals who may be in need.

“The coats are donated by families in the church or purchased by volunteers from the church who are helping collect items,” Akers said. “Several local resale stores have offered discounts on purchases of coats and jackets in previous years.”

The giveaways are not the only time that people in the community can seek help from the Live Forgiven Church. Whether individuals show up after the giveaways have ended or if they need help between the monthly events, the church is always willing to help.

“We maintain a food pantry and have served individuals in the community between giveaways during some months,” Akers said. “Even if someone is ‘late’ in the day or the wrong week, we offer what groceries we have available.”

Individuals who need help do not have to be present at the giveaways to receive the food and clothing. Friends, family and neighbors are encouraged to pick up groceries for someone if they do not have transportation, and the giveaway is open to everyone. Whether they be young or old, married or single, a parent or not, the church will provide aid to those who need it.

“If anyone wants to know why we do this, what’s in it for us – well, nothing really,” Akers said.

“It’s just that we figured this out – loving God and loving others is an amazing way to live. It’s one piece of what ‘living forgiven’ means to us. This little token of what we get to do every month is a way to tell Jackson County we love them. We love them because God loves them.” 

If you wish to donate food or coats, or have any questions about the giveaways and the Live Forgiven Church Food Ministry, contact Akers at  foodministry@liveforgiven.life or at 507-0452.

Live Forgiven is at 45 Crown Ridge Road, Sylva.

Kaylee Cook is a Sylva Herald intern.