One Meal at a Time

One Meal at a Time

Mebane churches, along with non-profit organization One Meal, provide Mebane’s homeless, who lack a shelter, with resources.

By Jessica Swanson

On Aug. 28, 2013, a notice posted on the door of the Loaves & Fishes headquarters in Burlington informed the rest of Alamance County that the organization would no longer provide its services. No more food. No more funds.

Prior to closing, Loaves & Fishes had worked with churches in the area to take in food donations and give them to those in need. With the organization’s abrupt shutdown, people scrambled to fill the hole left in the community.

The women behind One Meal Inc. stepped up.

“It prompted us to do that even more,” said Corine Wilkins, co-founder of One Meal, a nonprofit organization created to combat food insecurity in Mebane.

“There were so many people that utilized Loaves & Fishes,” said Alfreda Evans, volunteer and adviser at One Meal. With a North Carolina food insecurity rate of 18.6 percent, everything One Meal did in Mebane helped to provide for the hungry.

And then came another abrupt change. With the N.C. 119 freeway passing through Mebane and disrupting housing, in addition to complications with the housing at One Meal headquarters, the nonprofit had to relocate.

“We didn’t have the funds to move somewhere else,” said Wilkins. They had spent four years providing meals for the elderly and children in need. They had spent four years working at four locations in Mebane, making sure that those in their community didn’t go hungry.

It was all going to fall apart.

Thanks to the Federal Highway Administration and the N.C. Department of Transportation, it didn’t. The agencies facilitated and reimbursed the relocation of One Meal from their Mebane location to a house in Green Level.

“Change is good,” volunteer Loretta Clark said from her seat on the couch in the new house. “It takes you out of your comfort zone.”

One Meal volunteers, from left: Caroline Woods, Corine Wilkins, Loretta Clark, Celesta Jones and Alfreda Evans.

One Meal volunteers, from left: Caroline Woods, Corine Wilkins, Loretta Clark, Celesta Jones and Alfreda Evans.

The Green Level house — their new comfort zone — is surrounded by trees and falling autumn leaves. An orange wreath decorated with plastic leaves and flowers adorns the door — the wreath was made by Celesta Jones from the food pantry, who crafts in addition to battling food insecurity. Inside, they have a freezer and refrigerator so they can store donations of meat. The oven and stovetop sit beside the fridge, ready for the women of One Meal to start cooking.

During the transitional period, all the furniture from the Mebane location went into a storage unit. Now they’ve begun settling in, which involves furnishing the comfortable sitting room inside the house. They’ve already got a candy cane- and teddy bear-covered Christmas-themed pillow propped up on the couch.

The women of One Meal already have plans to brighten the holiday season. They will begin providing food again on the first Saturday in December. Despite the location change, they will still serve the same four sites in Mebane: West End, Fitch Drive, Mebane Loft and Tanglewood Apartments.

“I’m excited because we’re doing the same four sites we’ve been doing for four years and adding two more,” said Wilkins. The added two are houses off Highway 49 in Green Level where One Meal will cook for the sick and elderly.

“They need that center,” Wilkins said of the people she helps. Some aren’t allowed to touch the stove. They cannot cook for themselves.

“When they realize it’s free and you really do care, they’re more than happy to get that service,” she said.

“They don’t feel like they’re in your way or that you’re bothering them.”

A lot of people need help. People on dialysis need to eat, Wilkins explained. People who need caretakers aren’t eligible for them, she said. In Alamance County, 26 percent of children suffer from food insecurity.

One Meal differs from other food services by providing meals for children, not just the elderly.

“They run out on the sidewalk and eat right on the sidewalk,” Wilkins said. “They say, ‘Here comes the Food Lady!’ That’s what they call me.”

Mebane’s been through a lot. The highway development has disrupted and shifted businesses and homes.
There are also no homeless shelters in the town, and it can be difficult for those in need to find access to food and clothing.

Orange Congregations in Mission helps out in the Orange County part of Mebane. They provide Meals on Wheels as well as assistance through the Samaritan Relief Ministry Program. Pastors in Mebane can refer members of their congregation to the organization.

Most churches and other means of providing service to the needy go through Burlington. It’s bigger and has the necessary resources. But this still leaves homebound hungry people in Mebane without the food they need.

One Meal helps to meet these needs, as does the food pantry of Ray of Hope Multi-Ethnic Church in Mebane.

“We were interested in being an emergency stop-gap for people that needed food who couldn’t get it anywhere else,” said Ray of Hope Pastor Sidney Wheatley. “Even though we’re a small church, we should be involved in the community.” Last month, they provided 10 Thanksgiving meals for families, complete with turkey and dessert.

“We take what we have for granted,” Evans said. “Three meals a day; eating out.”
The fact is, she said, children and elderly people too often don’t get the food they need. Even with all the work put in by people like the women at One Meal Inc., people in Mebane are still going hungry.

“Donations and volunteer work is needed, and it’s important,” Wilkins said. “It’s totally important.”
Another aspect of One Meal that separates it from other services is its weekend hours. While programs like Meals on Wheels operate only on weekdays, One Meal works through the weekend.

“The reason I help is because I know there are people who don’t get a meal every day,” Evans explained.

“That’s an awesome opportunity to help somebody in need.”

Nonperishable food, meat and monetary donations, as well as dedicated volunteers, keep One Meal Inc. operating.

“I intend on a lot of people volunteering when they find out,” Wilkins said.

“It’s so rewarding.”