The Rev. Jackie Carter’s voice overpowers chatter and crying toddlers in the basement of First Metropolitan Community Church.
“I need a box for five, please. A box for five,” the pastor hollers to volunteers bagging bread and fresh produce heaped on long tables.
By 6 p.m., 700 to 800 families will pass through the church doors. Most come once a month for their share of nonperishable food and snacks, boxed by the church and doled out once a week on Tuesdays, starting at 1 p.m.
A few come weekly for bread and sweet bakery goods, or to take home clothes.
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“Our goal is help supplement people so they don’t go hungry,” Carter said.
“I’m not sure that God asks us to fill the pews as much as God asks us to do God’s work.”
For its third year, the American Red Cross Midway-Kansas Chapter is seeking people, like Carter, to honor at its annual Heroes Breakfast. The pastor — recognized in 2011 for her work with the First Metropolitan Community Church’s weekly food pantry — is just one example of those “amazing people in our community who go without the recognition so many people think they deserve,” Red Cross spokesman James Williams said.
“Jackie just speaks to her award category,” he said of Carter, who earned the organization’s Community Hero award, bestowed upon a person who creates positive change and impact community wide.
“Because of her beliefs and what food means to her, it’s a story of an incredible person in our community doing an extraordinary thing,” he said. “ We are just looking for people who know of these incredible stories.”
Nominations, available in nine categories, will be accepted through Oct. 5 at www.WichitaHeroesBreakfast.org or by calling 316-219-4088. The recognition breakfast, held Dec. 12, is a fundraiser to help support south-central Kansans in the Red Cross Midway-Kansas Chapter’s service area.
Carter called her honor last year “an award for the whole congregation.”
“It’s because of their generosity that we’re able to do this,” she said.
Outside the church Tuesday afternoon, the pastor’s impact showed. The line for food stretched around the building, at 156 S. Kansas. Some walked or rode the city bus because they have no cars.
Two women – friends and neighbors – waited for a ride after collecting food. Each held a cardboard box of nonperishables for two, plus sacks of bread and potatoes: enough food for at least three meals per family, Carter said.
Amanda Wolfe, 35, spoke tearfully as she explained that her husband is medically unable to work. Most months it’s a choice between paying bills or buying groceries, she said.
The church buys the food for about 16 cents a pound from the Kansas Food Bank. But to the families who need the food pantry, it’s a valuable service worth recognizing, Wolfe said.
“It helps a lot. It really does, especially when you got no food,” Wolfe said.