Photo by Jeylin White
Rev. Willie M. Simpson (left), and an unidentified helper, prepare a box of food that will aid a Clayton County family in need of assistance. Simpson founded Destiny International Foursquare Church, in Jonesboro, which operates the food pantry.
Deborah Mollineaux, of Jonesboro, said she recently lost her job, and was having to face the harsh reality of either choosing to pay her rent and electric bill, or buy food.
While she was desperately searching for some assistance, a friend –– was also out of work –– told her about the food pantry at Rev. Willie M. Simpson Evangelistic Ministries and Destiny International Foursquare Church, in Jonesboro. The church offers free food to Clayton County residents.
“I had no idea this church was even here, until my friend told me,” said Mollineaux. She said when she arrived at the church, it was like no other food bank she had ever seen. The room was overflowing with fresh fruits and vegetables, beverages, and meats.
“It was just wonderful,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Mollineaux said she left that day with enough food to last her through the month.
Feeding Clayton residents has been a long-time commitment for Rev. Simpson, founder of Destiny International Foursquare Church. The quaint church, which sits tucked away off Tara Boulevard in an office complex, has been involved in feeding the hungry for the last six years.
Rev. Simpson said the food her ministry is able to distribute is largely possible because of her four-year relationship with the Atlanta Food Bank, and that the church, now, also gets food from 10 Publix Grocery stores, every Monday and Friday.
With the extra food from Publix, she has been able to serve more residents, she said. As a result, the food pantry’s hours have been expanded from one day a week, to five, and sometimes, six days. “There’s such a great need in the community,” said Simpson.
According to the Atlanta Food Bank’s web site, a study released in August of 2011 –– Feeding America’s Child Food Insecurity –– revealed that 27.9 percent of Georgia’s children live in food-insecure households. That is about 700,000 children under age 18. Only 72.1 percent of the state’s children live in households that are food secure. The USDA defines food insecurity as the lack of access to adequate food, resulting from the lack of money, and other resources.
Simpson said that, before Publix came into the picture, her pantry was only able to serve 25 to 30 families in the county, per week. Now, it is feeding more than 100 families. She added that she is getting so much food, she is unable to accommodate it in the small kitchen space that she has at the church.
“We do need a larger space, because we have expanded,” she said. “It is just a 100 times more of what were doing.”
Her kitchen space is so small, she said, that an anonymous community member wrote her a check for $1,000 to purchase a freezer for her pantry.
In addition to helping families that come to her church for help, Simpson said, the loads of food she picks up twice a week have allowed her to help food ministries at other local churches. “We have partnered with about eight ministries,” she said.
Pastor James Boxdale has been a member at Destiny International Foursquare Church for several years, and is responsible for the running the food ministry. He said he accompanies Rev. Simpson on the food pick-up twice a week. “We need more volunteers to help us out,” said Boxdale. “With the quantity of the food we are getting, it is very needed.”
Another member at the church, Robin Gordon, agreed. “We just need help,” she said. “Whatever people can donate, whether that be money to purchase an extra truck, or your time.”
Rev. Simpson said she gets plenty of women, who volunteer, but she would like to have more male volunteers, to help load and unload food from the truck.
Food pantry hours generally are from 9 a.m., to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, at Destiny International Foursquare Church, located at 737 Veterans Parkway, in Jonesboro. Rev. Simpson said the pantry is open to any Clayton resident in need of assistance. For more information, call (770) 756-9100.