Appalachian Congregations
Feed Hungry and House Poor

American News Service

SYLVANIA, Ala. (ANS) - Religious congregations in southern Appalachian have found solutions to hunger in their own fields and backyards.

A cooperative of 11 Methodist churches is growing and gathering vegetables for a cannery which they founded in Sylvania, Ala., to feed the rural poor.

This summer, the churches raised 1,000 cabbages to can 3,000 quarts of sauerkraut in reused mayonnaise jars. In addition, local farmers donated or discounted enough vegetables to make 3,000 quarts of soup.

Rotating teams of eight volunteers staff the cannery in July and August.

"We give out the canned goods through our parish food pantry and in soup kitchens throughout northern Alabama," said missionary Jay Godfrey of Upper Sand Mountain Parish, the cooperative ministry of 11 Methodist churches on Sand Mountain in Alabama's northeast corner.

Homelessness is another problem being tackled by the congregants.

To house families with children who live at or below the poverty line, the churches recruit volunteers to help construct tiny but cozy "Heart and Hand Houses," as they're known. The houses are powered by solar energy and built for less than $20,000 per cottage.

The families do not have to be parish members, but they do need to show stability, a source of income, and community involvement, says Godfrey. In 10 years, the parish has built 25 cottages, all of them partially funded and constructed by sponsoring congregations from throughout Alabama and as far away as Indiana.

"The Canterbury United Methodist church in Birmingham, Ala., comes every year to build a house," says Godfrey. "They say nothing brings their congregation closer together."

Posted January 8, 1998
Copyright © 1998 The American News Service

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