Fellowship Trip Feeds the Hungry
BY ANGELA ZUMWALT
Special to The Pilot
The last Friday in September saw a convoy leaving the parking lot of Brownson Memorial Presbyterian Church in Southern Pines, headed for the Blue Ridge Mountains in Fincastle, Va.
Fourteen church members, ranging in age from 12 to 83, piled their bags and themselves into a large van and several small cars and headed out in the gusty, heavy rain.
The rain continued on and off for most of the five-hour trip, but it did not detract from the beauty of the mountains as the group approached Fincastle.
They reached Camp Easter Seal and met up with church groups from all over North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania -- 60 people in all. They were all there to take part in a program organized by the Harvest of Hope arm of the Society of St. Andrew (endhunger.org), headquartered in Big Island, Va.
Mindful of the amount of food that goes to waste in the fields and orchards of the United States, Harvest of Hope organizes gleaning trips to gather the food and get it quickly and cost-effectively onto the plates of those in need.
It was still dark on Saturday when the entire group once again piled into their cars and vans and headed over the mountains to the orchard. It was misty and showery; folks wondered what the day would bring.
They fanned out in the orchard and began looking for apples that had fallen from the trees -- apples that would go to waste if not collected. At first, it seemed more like an Easter Egg Hunt than an apple gleaning. Apples were few and far between and many were rotten and could not be collected. Faces grew long in the rain and red mud caked shoes and clothing.
The team toiled up the hillside, over the hill and into the next section of the orchard. They looked around and smiled. It seemed as though a strong wind had literally blown hundreds of apples off the trees! Re-energized, everybody swung into action and began filling orange net bags to the brim. Each bag held at least 65 pounds of apples.
The stronger gleaners heaved the bags onto their backs and slid up and down muddy pathways to collection locations in the orchard.
By 2 p.m., around 7,000 pounds of apples had been gleaned from the orchard -- apples that would have gone to waste.
The local food bank in Roanoke, Va., sent a truck and trailer and volunteers to gratefully haul off 93 bags for distribution to local agencies.
The Brownson team brought back 13 bags -- around 850 pounds of apples -- to be shared between the Sandhills/Moore Coalition for Human Care, Inc. and the Sandhills Food Bank, both in Southern Pines.
Volunteers at the two agencies waited eagerly to take delivery of the apples that Monday. They distributed them to their clients on the very same day.
Fresh, nutritious apples straight from the orchard are a rarity for the people who depend on these organizations for their food.
The weekend mission trip also included thoughtful hunger awareness discussions and activities.
On Saturday evening, hungry and tired after working hard in the orchard, the gleaners were surprised to learn that their evening meal was to take the form of a "soup kitchen" simulation. The simulation was a jarring reminder to remember always to treat others -- especially those in need -- with kindness and dignity.
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