An angel from West Tisbury

An angel from West Tisbury

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This past winter Pam McCormick of West Tisbury identified a need on the Island. Immediately, and almost single-handedly, she did something to address it. In January Ms. McCormick, having discovered that the Island Food Pantry was having a tough time providing for Islanders in need, contacted a nationwide organization called Angel Food Ministries and by the end of the month she was distributing quality affordable groceries to 19 families through the program. Last month the number of boxes distributed had climbed to over 60 and Ms. McCormick hopes to reach out to as many people as possible on the Island who could use some help.

“It’s a hand up, not necessarily a hand-out,” says Ms. McCormick who moved here two years ago from Michigan with her husband and two children. “We wanted to offer people the opportunity to cut their grocery bills. Hopefully we can help families to buy gas or get a prescription with the money they save.”

Angel Food Ministries buys the food wholesale in bulk and each month delivers an assortment of food packages to 44 states, including Alaska, through their central distribution site in Georgia. The standard box includes enough food — fresh, frozen, and packaged — for a week for a family of four, or for a month for an individual. It consists of items from each of the major food groups, and selections change every month. Also available are boxes of assorted meats, seafood, or fruit and vegetables. You can even order boxes of prepared meals, boxes of assorted snacks for kids and other specialty boxes. Each box costs between $18 and $30.

There are no restrictions as to who may order the discounted food boxes. There is no application process, and there is no limit to the number of units that can be ordered each month. Boxes can be purchased online with a credit or debit card or with cash, check, or Food Stamps through Ms. McCormick. The food is distributed once a month on a Saturday (usually the third Saturday of the month) from 1 to 2 pm at the Vineyard Assembly of God on State Road in Tisbury. Although many distribution sites and local sponsors are churches, Angel Food Ministries is a non-denominational organization. Food boxes do, however, include Christian tracts.

Coming from Southeast Michigan, Ms. McCormick was witness to the effects of the declining economy early on. She became aware of an Angel Food Ministries operation in her area and passed the word along to her parents, who launched a food distribution site in their town in Michigan. The McCormick family was forced by economic circumstances to move to the Vineyard two years ago and they joined the Vineyard Assembly of God. “Being involved with a church, we see the real people on the island — the people who live here year-round,” she says. ” You get to know them and their needs. You get to see people for who they really are, and we all struggle at certain times.”

When she heard about the Food Pantry’s needs and recognized that this winter was particularly tough on seasonal workers and others, Ms. McCormick became determined to do what she could to help. “I thought, I’ve got something that could help families ease the load, and shame on me if I don’t do something to help,” she says.

Ms. McCormick connected with the people at Angel Food Ministries and was able to bypass the standard three- to six-month training process and initiate the program right away. She says, “I called them and said ‘You ready for this? Let’s go.’” She explained the situation on the Vineyard and emphasized, “It’s a now kind of thing.”

Ms. McCormick, who does some substitute teaching and volunteers as a volleyball and soccer coach, embarked on a one-woman mission to get the program rolling. She reached out to social service organizations on the Island, compiled a mailing list, printed flyers and otherwise made a supreme effort to get the word out.

Ms. McCormick sets up three days a week to take orders at the church, and she and her family make the monthly trip to Raynham at their own expense to pick up the boxes. With the assistance of a few volunteers, she runs the distribution process and, if necessary, she will sometimes make deliveries. She is currently trying to help other towns on the Cape set up similar programs in the hope that they could establish a closer pickup site. She notes that the Vineyard is the program’s first non-continental host site.

Ms. McCormick gave away the boxes that she ordered for her family in January and notes that members of her church have funded boxes for others. “It’s people helping other people,” she says.

Happy to see that the number of boxes distributed has increased each month, mainly due to word of mouth, Ms. McCormick says, ” It’s definitely helped out a lot of families, but there are still a lot of people trying to make ends meet.”

In a video on the Angel Food website, angelfoodministries.com, a volunteer from central Texas expresses the organization’s mission well, saying, “People who have nothing have programs. People who can afford it don’t need them. It’s those in the middle that just need a little help.”

For more information on the Angel Food program on the Island, contact angelfoodministriesmv@gmail.com, or call Pam McCormick at 508-687-9039.