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Redemption Center offers food giveaway
free food - volunteers loading up boxes.jpg
Boxes of food fill the parking lot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assembly hall on Highway 55 on Saturday morning. - photo by Jennifer Woods

Saturday morning, residents on Shangri La Lane off Highway 55 awoke to an unfamiliar site. Vehicles were lined along the bypass bumper-to-bumper heading toward Newtown but stopped at the intersection where the LDS McMinnville assembly hall is located.

It all started when The Redemption Center volunteer minister Steve Madison posted a video on his and his wife’s Facebook page on Friday. Madison announced there would be a tractor trailer full of meats, produce and various other food items that would be given away for free. 

“This one video was shared over 500 times and seen over 6,500 times,” said Madison.

The Redemption Center is located behind Waffle House at 127 Northgate Drive. 

“This project started as a conversation with Barry Dishman with the Kids of the Community organization. We worked together to figure out the logistics and costs. It takes about three months to plan for this event,” said Madison.

Vehicles started lining up before 5 a.m. for the 9 a.m. distribution start time. The line extended past The Webb House and was steady until around 11:30 a.m. Madison said there was no criteria to who could pick up food. Madison stated, “This is about serving in the name of Jesus. We want to serve the community while lifting Jesus.” 

This is the third food giveaway The Redemption Center has spearheaded. “We try to do this around spring and Christmas break so that kids will have something to eat when they are out of school. This was planned before the virus outbreak,” said Madison.

The refrigerated semi held 22,000 pounds of food that was purchased from The Second Harvest Food Bank in Nashville. “The food was culled as best as we could,” said Madison. One box of food was given to each vehicle.

The only requirement was that folks stay in their cars and boxes would be handed to them by volunteers. Precautions of masks, gloves and law enforcement from McMinnville Police Department and Warren County Sheriff’s Department also assisted in this endeavor.

There were over 75 volunteers who helped make this possible. “We would like to thank 3 Rusty Nails Trucking, Nacarato Truck Leasing, McMinnville Lawn & Garden, Silent Creed MC, Grace Tabernacle Church volunteers, Resurrection and Hope Church volunteers and church volunteers from other local churches. Not to forget Kids of the Community and Barry Dishman for helping in so many avenues in making this a go today. Plus, all the police and constables giving of their time today we thank you,” stated Madison. “We had all walks of life helping for a common cause.”

There was also an area in the parking lot where folks could go and have someone pray with them. Volunteers and church members gave spiritual support to those who needed that as well as food.

By 11:30 a.m., it was estimated over 3,500 cars had picked up a box of food. After an hour of cleaning up, everything was back to normal by 12:30 p.m.

With the good comes the bad. Some folks were restless waiting in line and later on others complained about what they had received. Madison said he received over 30 angry comments about the distribution. 

On the Madison Facebook page that announced the free food giveaway this was posted on Monday: “So, looking back over the past weekend it has been decided our next food distribution will no longer be in Warren County but we will head to Putnam County where they have absolutely nothing and are grateful for anything. We received more hateful and complaining comments this time over the last three we have done in WC. I personally had over 30 hateful messages sent to me via messenger. We had no idea the crowd would ever become as large as it did. But, we are grateful God stretched that load of food to serve so many in need. We definitely learned a lot from this one. Again, so thankful for every volunteer and organization that stepped to the plate to do their best for the community! You all are the best!”