First Christian Church of Downey hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Sept. 23, to introduce the area where the new storage facility for their FoodHelp food bank program will be constructed.
Construction of the new steel building is scheduled to begin in the middle of Oct. 2020 and will be located in the rear of the church between two parking areas.
The new building will have a state of the art air and refrigeration system and other amenities to house all of the necessities for the program.
Lead Pastor Josh Phillips said “As a church we do many things, we pray, we read the bible, we hold church services, we do music, bible study, we do leadership development but we believe that all these things become useless, although useless is probably an exaggeration if we are not helping each other, if we are not helping our brothers and sisters which is the community of Downey. I believe our message loses its credibility and that it’s such a privilege to be a part of a church that understands that we are here to serve the community.”
Kaiser Permanente is one of the many sponsors for the new building and some of its representatives were in attendance at the ceremony.
Jim Branchick, Kaiser Permanente’s senior vice president and area manager for the Downey Service Area said, “We know how important fresh food is, especially fresh healthy food is important for all of our people and not just those here but a lot of our families who are in need. With the Coronavirus it makes it even more important, because the best way to fight a virus is to be healthy and the best way to be healthy is to eat healthy.”
“I know how much work FoodHelp has done with their volunteers each week to provide this fresh and healthy food to the Community members and most to the ones in need,” he continued.
Branchick indicated that Kaiser was donating a $50,000 grant towards the new building and infrastructure upgrades.
“I know it will be a well done, safe building for your employees and that it will really serve the community well,” he said.
Other sponsorship donations include Supervisor Janice Hahn, Baker Electric, PIH Health, local markets such as Grocery Outlet, Aldi, Albertsons, WINCO, Portos and various other churches and private donors. Although restaurants are not a major source for donations, the local Pizza Hut often donates pizza to feed the volunteers who selflessly give their time.
From January to May of this year, the FoodHelp food bank has assisted 9,947 families.
According to Jim Wilkinson, FoodHelp Board Member, “That’s an 18% increase from last year. This year alone we have also helped 43,775 individuals. To do this work, We have 1,626 volunteers which is probably not an accurate number. We are just so thankful for each one of our volunteers. We are so blessed to be able to serve the community.”
Associate Pastor Mark Schoch indicated that FoodHelp food bank started in 2005 at the church and, in the beginning, was very small: “We would ask the congregation to bring a couple of bags of groceries and it grew and grew overtime. It wasn’t something we tried to grow, we was just helping people and this is what happened. It’s a God thing.”
The food give away every Saturday hasn’t slowed down despite the Coronavirus. In keeping with the rules for social distancing, FoodHelp is still meeting the community’s needs while keeping everyone as safe as possible.
The new building should be completed by Jan. 2021. “We are excited to see just what we will be able to do when it’s complete and up and running,” said Wilkinson.