Maria Perez has been a faithful volunteer at the Community Center for many years. She previously worked at QVC. Maria has one son and two daughters, all of whom live in the area. She also has seven grandchildren.
About 30 years ago, Maria heard the Spanish radio program, “Hablemos en Claro.” She was so moved by its message that she called the radio station and was connected to the Pastor of the Alpha & Omega Church of the Brethren at that time, Guillermo Encarnacion. The pastor reached out to Maria and stopped by to see her, which led to Maria visiting the church. There, she found a loving community and help with family problems with which she was dealing.
Through the church, Maria became involved in its ministries. She was a coordinator not only of the Food Bank, but also of the Clothing Bank that existed at that time. She coordinated social activities for the church and center for 15 years. She also became a member of the Community Center Board and continues to serve in that capacity, truly a “lifetime member.”
Working with Food Bank co-coordinator, Petra Castro, Maria manages food ordering, oversees volunteers, organizes the food for distribution, and ensures that safe and healthy practices are in place. Maria gives thanks to God for the blessings of church participation in this ministry. Both Maria and Petra enjoy working with the Food Bank volunteers. Some volunteers are from the church, and others are from the community.
In this positive atmosphere, the Spirit of Christ is felt and friendships blossom. There is a sense of unity among the volunteers as they bless all the persons who come through the Food Bank line.
The ministry to Food Bank recipients often goes beyond the basic need for food. Some share their stories and concerns with the pastor and with other volunteers, asking for prayers. When there is a special need in the neighborhood, Maria and Petra put together and deliver boxes of food. Maria says that as a Christian, she is very happy to do the work that she does. She receives the blessing of joy from giving and helping others.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Most of the food for the Food Bank, according to co-coordinator Petra Castro, is bought through a yearly grant allotted by the state through the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg. We normally order cereal, fruits, vegetables, meats, nutrition bars, pancake mix, and syrup and pay minimal prices. We also receive free food from Community Action Partnership (CAP) and free meat donations from Weis Market on Millersville Pike. Miscellaneous items such as hams, turkeys, personal care items, hats/scarves/ gloves, and additional food items are donated through churches. Recently, one church donated 66 quilts, and another gave personal care kits, gloves, hats, and scarves, as well as hand sanitizers and disinfectants. At this point, the Center needs a refrigerator and a freezer. If there is a church, organization, business, or individual able to donate to meet these needs, call 717-394-3021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.