Posted: 4/5/18 at 11:00am. Story by Dale Seley.
Four years ago, during a board meeting of the Fredericksburg-area churches who partnered together to pack meals for “Rise Against Hunger,” a dream was born. The board members began to discuss the possibility of merging their various food ministries together into one ministry for the community.
The issue that prompted this discussion was that various churches had their own separate dates and times to distribute food. In addition, each church had their own set of regulations for food distribution. This approach presented a challenge for the people they were serving, who were already under-resourced; they had to drive from church to church at various times during the week to get food assistance. An idea came to the surface: What if we could get together, in partnership, and create one distribution center?
Fast forward to January 18, 2018, when the Community Ministry Center (CMC) in Fredericksburg, VA, was opened. The CMC was established as an independent non-profit organization to help under-resourced people who have food needs, and it is supported by Salem Baptist Church and the Fredericksburg Area Baptist Network. Volunteers from the community help to run this ministry, and there are no paid employees. People in need can come to the center and receive food three times a week. The CMC also provides a computer center and offers support for additional resources, connections, and encouragement for the clients. The organizers are considering future ministries including car repair and medical and dental assistance.
Since its opening in January, the center has served over 100 families each week. The number of local merchants who donate food weekly has increased, and so has the volume of food that is picked up by volunteers and brought to the center for distribution. Currently, Panera Bread, Bob Evans, Weis Markets, Starbucks, Outback Steakhouse, Target, Giant, and Wawa are some of the businesses that donate food. The center also purchases food from the Fredericksburg Food Bank for minimal costs, in addition to receiving many free food items.
The leased space is 1,600 square feet, and the need for additional space is already apparent as the center plans to expand and client needs increase.
Most new nonprofits that fail do so because their vision does not include a plan for sustainability, but the setup of the CMC nonprofit was planned with a for-profit business plan for sustainability. Matt Mestemaker (Executive Director of the CMC and Salem member) and Terry Blackburn-Parker (an associate minister at Salem) have developed a proposal to open a child care center in the children’s wing of Salem Church. This child care center will function as a for-profit business to support the CMC. They are currently finalizing details in order to present the plan to the Salem Church’s Board of Directors and congregation for approval and support. They believe that this new ministry will provide support for the CMC from a financial standpoint while providing Salem Church a new ministry opportunity as well.
“Connecting a Community to Christ” is the mission statement for Salem Baptist Church. This ministry is another opportunity that God has provided for the Salem congregation to show them yet another way to be Jesus’ hands and feet in their community.