Sumner County Food Bank Executive Director James Gill still remembers the family sitting inside an old Dodge car parked next to him outside Liberty Baptist Church on a Wednesday afternoon in April 2009.
He still remembers how hungry the couple and their three children were when he took them to get food at a local restaurant before filling their car up with gas and giving them $30 for their journey to Florida where the father had just gotten a job.
“I went back to the church and I was sitting in my office when I just felt moved in my heart,” Gill recalled. “All these years that I’d been telling people how much God loved them, I just felt like the Lord was telling me to show it. I felt like at that point I had to do something.”
That Sunday, Gill shared with the less than two dozen members of the church’s congregation at the time his desire to start a food bank to help feed local hungry families. The following month, the Sumner County Food Bank opened in a small store room that had been converted into a classroom at the church.
On May 21, the Gallatin-based nonprofit celebrated its 10th anniversary.
During that time, the organization has distributed more than 4.2 million pounds of food – enough for more than 1.2 million meals – to 42,000 hungry families from across Sumner County.
“Who would have ever dreamed that in 10 yeas we would have come to where we are now?” Gill said. “People don’t understand how much is involved, but we feel like we are fulfilling a basic need of the county and we are just so thankful that we’re able to do that.”
Every month, volunteers help box between 35,000 and 50,000 pounds of food that is handed out on the third Tuesday at the nonprofit’s headquarters on Woods Ferry Road.
Families receive a 60-pound box of nonperishable foods, a 30-pound box of meat products and a 15-pound box of bakery items along with produce, dairy and eggs. The food is enough to provide three meals a day for four people for 10 days.
“We have not turned a person away in six years,” Gill said. “We go home each night (after a giveaway) totally worn out, but yet it’s just so comforting and puts a smile on our faces to know that there are going to be hot meals on so many families’ tables that night that would not have been there otherwise.”
There were more than 360 families that received food from the nonprofit during its monthly giveaway last week.
According to Gill, the majority of individuals who receive assistance from the food bank include senior citizens who are on fixed incomes as well as the disabled and those who have a job but still struggle financially.
The nonprofit’s annual budget this year is $192,000 with all of the funding coming from local citizens and businesses. No state or federal money is accepted and no one receives a salary from working at the food bank.
“It’s a good worthy cause,” said Homer Bradley, who at the age of 90 has raised more than $150,000 for the food bank through his annual Fall Ride for Food motorcycle ride in October. “I just want to get out and do something to help those that are in need because God has blessed me so much.”
While volunteers are working six days a week at the food bank, there are no days off for Gill who receives “no less than 50 calls a day” from those who either need assistance or want to make a donation.
Despite the long hours and stress, the nearly 77-year-old said he plans to continue working to help feed local hungry families for as long as he is able to.
“We’re never going to reach a time that Sumner County doesn’t continue to grow and that need doesn’t consistently get greater,” Gill said. “I’m just thankful that we’re there and able to help them. That’s our life, that’s what we do and we won’t quit until the time comes to quit.”