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They Feed The Hungry Washburn Center In Its 10th Year, Needs Volunteers

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These volunteers at Washburn Community Outreach Center stand both in front of and behind the food that is given away. They are (from left) Bob Billingsly, Richard Behrns, Daphyn Vance, Isabella Behrns, Anita Behrns, Vanessa Baynard, Judy McEntire, and Pau

Feeding the hungry?

Really?

Like Yokefellow, Chase Corner Ministries, like local churches with clothes closets and food pantries, the Washburn Community Outreach Center is a Jesus-based mission that touches hundreds of lives across Rutherford County and beyond.

And it needs volunteer help.

There is plenty of food, some of which comes from Second Harvest Food Bank of Metroline, a large regional mission that distributes surplus food to many counties in North Carolina. There is plenty of need as people will sometimes line up as early as 2:30 in the morning to receive food when there is a monthly food truck delivery.

There is not plenty of volunteer human power.

Volunteers can call 828-245-5603 between 9 and 2 on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays to learn more about volunteer needs. Those are also the center's hours of operation.

Neither rain nor snow nor dark of night will keep these volunteers from their appointed rounds, especially when the food truck comes to South Mountain Christian Camp once a month. That next delivery is set for August 5.

Becky Hunt Carson, who graduated from East Rutherford High School in 1972, says there is a real need for people to hand out water bottles and sausage biscuits on food truck delivery days as people will often sit in line for hours to receive those boxes of food. Volunteers are aslo needed to deliver to the cars in line.

"Some of those cars are held together with duct tape and spit," Carson said. "It really is pitiful. It feels sometimes like the contact those folks have with us is the only contact they ever have with other people. It breaks my heart. I pray with them and visit with them, but I have to keep moving as I'm lots of times the only person giving out the applications."

Persons receiving the food need to do simple paperwork in order to qualify for the food boxes and Carson remembers doing it once in a snow storm. She went from car to car and "It just kept snowing."

Anita Behrns is the director of the agency. She bustles around the clothing and food in a truly generous spirit. One recipient of help said, "They are always so nice, so friendly, never judgmental. They even pray with me."

Prayer is a constant theme around the center. One sign on the wall of Behrns's office reads, "Pray about everything. Worry about nothing."

Behrns said of the need for volunteers, "Some of us are getting a little age on us and lifting boxes is not as easy as it once was."

Behrns's grandson, while a senior at Chase High raised $1,150 for the center as his senior project in 2017.

Lydia Rose Bridges, who is a junior in high school, raised the money to build a wheelchair ramp at the center.

The center opened in November of 2009 under the leadership of Rev. Linda Ferguson, minister at Salem United Methodist Church. She said at the time the center opened, "God's hand is all over this ministry. God is doing great work here."

Rev. Sam Burleson is the current minister at Salem and explained that the center is an extension ministry of the church, making any gift to the center tax deductible.

He said the congregation is meeting with consultants to determine "how the ministry can move from relief to empowerment."

Burleson said on a weekly basis between 10 and 15 percent of the congregation is involved in the center and overall through both gifts and work, as much as 40 percent is involved

Dianne Smith is another volunteer who works at the center. She said she likes to get out and around people because she lives alone with three dogs. She also volunteers at the Blessed Way Clothes Closet which is only open on Tuesdays in the location of the old Bostic post office.

The Washburn center is located at 2934 Piney Mountain Church Road just behind Washburn General Store. It can be also be found on Facebook.

Behrns said people they serve come from all over Rutherford County, which has a 19 percent poverty rate. Almost one in five people who live here live in poverty and need help meeting their basic needs.

Carson shakes her head and offers, "Some people question whether these people need the food. If they could see what I have seen, they wouldn't question it. Some of these situations are absolutely heartbreaking. It truly is a blessing to me. It really is. Sometimes when we open up, there are eight or ten people standing in line."

Among current volunteers are two missionaries from The Church Of Latter Day Saints, Rachel Risenmay and Jenna Gray, who are here from the West Coast.

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