Found Life Church opened the doors May 13 to its Found Hope Outreach Center, and Lead Pastor Dustin Alexander is thrilled with the success of that first day. The initial plan was to keep the center open for three hours, but the need was so great that volunteers stayed an extra hour to make sure everyone received their food and other necessities.
Opening the outreach center — located in a separate building on the church property — has been a goal ever since the church started in Winter Garden in 2019. It was realized two years and a pandemic later, Alexander said.
The church has partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to serve as a food distribution center twice a month. Last Thursday, church volunteers served close to 250 people and gave away about 4,000 pounds of items.
“We depleted our stock of almost completely what we had in our pantry, which we were thinking would last a month — which is fine,” Alexander said. “We didn’t know what the need would be. The incredible thing is the incredible families that really, really needed it. (At) our daycare, we serve a lot of families (who) have adopted and (are in the) foster family arena, and this is a big help.”
Besides fresh produce, breads, snacks and other food items, the center gave away diapers, baby wipes and other infant necessities; personal-care packages; and clothing.
By the end of the day, the church was running low on many of its items, but folks still walked away with several bags of groceries.
Alexander said the church is fortunate to have received grants through Second Harvest; items also were purchased at a discount, which stretched the dollars even further. Second Harvest also sells pallets of random items at a deep discount, and the church was able to get laundry and dishwashing detergent and the baby supplies.
“Second Harvest was so impressed with my wife’s proposal and the way she wants to do things,” he said. “We give you a list and let you shop, almost like a grocery store, for what you need for your family. Second Harvest … pushed our timeline a little bit quicker. They wanted to get us some grants that were available for additional food items because they really liked and believe in our model — and they want to do more with that in the future.”
To ensure the church can continue its mission, Alexander is looking to the community for financial support.
“We’re going to have to start knocking on doors of some businesses and getting some grants (and) available funds that are out there,” he said. “If we are going to meet this need, it’s a lot more than we really realized is out there. And I don’t think we have even scratched the surface.”
The pastor is available to talk to anyone considering a sponsorship or donation, and he will give a tour of the facility if someone would like to see the operation.
“We need to try and raise $100,000 so we’re fully funded for the next couple of years,” he said. “We don’t want to run out.”
Monetary donations are preferred so the church can purchase the necessary food items. Second Harvest catalogs what is given to the church and keeps a list of recipients — solely to notify them of any food recalls.
Folks do not have to qualify to receive food.
“If you come in and say you need it, we don’t require anything,” Alexander said. “They fill out their shopping list when they walk in the door — ‘This is what we want for our family.’ Our volunteers mark what we get for each family, and we turn that in to Second Harvest.”
The next food distribution day is Thursday, May 27.