COLUMN: Inspired by Jesus to feed people
Published 9:00 am Monday, October 3, 2022
By Elisabeth Altamirano-Smith | Community Columnist
Hundreds of residents have come to know a local food ministry on Sixth Street — The Gathering. Each week, a group of local volunteers come together to donate their refrigerated truck in order to drive to Birmingham, purchase and load food items to transport to Clanton’s Sixth Street Warehouse and divide the items up for the families who are in need. Volunteers donate their time and resources in order to fulfill an act of service and love.
The inspiration behind the movement is a simple one.
“We do this because people are worth it,” Jeff Herron, founder of The Gathering, said. “Jesus loves those in need as much as everyone else. There is no religion when people come to pick up food, unless people ask us to pray with them. We just want a relationship to bless others.”
Herron, a well-known and loved Clanton resident, has worked in ministry for decades including singing for a Gospel group.
“I started the food bank when I had an old youth from my previous youth group approach me about his family being hungry,” Herron said. “We were already meeting doing small groups and Bible studies. I felt the Lord speak to me about offering food. Since The Gathering opened, we are feeding up to 300 people every Tuesday night and getting to pray with those that don’t regularly attend church. We offer natural food but … we are also offering spiritual food as well.”
The Gathering operates through donations from individuals and local organizations.
The organization is looking for donations of six-foot tables, folding chairs, 32-gallon garbage cans and trash bags, 60×40 white board, disposable gloves for food preparation, Ziploc bags of all sizes and Walmart gift cards. Donations may be dropped off on Tuesdays after 2 p.m. at 410 Sixth Street South in Clanton. Monetary donations may be mailed to 904 County Road 547, Verbena, Alabama 36091.
Herron said that The Gathering is changing lives around Chilton County as well as his own life.
“A woman that comes to the food bank told me that her diabetes number has dropped since she is able to get fresh produce,” Herron said. “A couple of weeks ago I ran across the street to carry a food box for someone and a man yelled at me across the street. I went to him thinking that he was there for food. He said, ‘I saw you praying for a lady in a car over there.’ I said, ‘yes, we pray with every person that allows us to.’ He stopped because his wife is dying and asked me to pray over her. He did not get food. He just saw people –‘believers’ trying to bless other people.”
The board of directors and volunteers are comprised of people from a wide range of different backgrounds and denominations that come together in unity to serve.
“It has been amazing the amount of volunteers that have come on board,” said Herron. “There are great people out there who want to help others; they just don’t have an opportunity to. The Gathering offers them a place to be able to love on people in Jesus’ name.”
The Gathering food distribution opens on Tuesdays at 5:30 p.m. at 202 Sixth Street South in Clanton. Updates can be found on social media at www.facebook.com/thegatheringclanton.