Spreading the Christmas Cheer: How Love Thy Neighbor Serves the Community
The Love Thy Neighbor Project is a non-profit organization located on Tennessee Wesleyan’s campus created by students in 2013 to address food insecurities in our local community. Love Thy Neighbor Project (LTNP) currently has four staff members: Asha Moore, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader; Annalise Vigilante, operations coordinator VISTA in-charge of campus food pantry; Alyssa Lacy, operations coordinator VISTA in-charge of mobile food pantry and back sacks; and Brittany Berry, Community Relations and Fundraising Coordinator. The pantry gets help from student ambassadors, as well as student volunteers, who come to help and work at the campus and mobile food pantries throughout the semester. Love Thy Neighbor not only fights hunger in the community but strives to serve the community any way possible.
One way Love Thy Neighbor gives back to the community during the holiday season is by helping give children a memorable Christmas. For Christmas, Love Thy Neighbor assists the community in giving children a wonderful Christmas. Love Thy Neighbor participates in Angel Tree. Angel Tree adopts Christmas lists from community members. The list includes information such as favorite color, a toy the child wants, their shoe size, and then clothing sizes. Love Thy Neighbor adopted 71 children this year and between students, staff, and faculty members, each child was shopped for.
“It’ll be an outfit, a coat, we get a pair of shoes in there, and then at least one good gift item,” added Moore about the Angel Tree program. “This year I think we did 71 children total, 33 families. It went pretty well this year.”
The food pantry serves the students on campus, as well as community members, and is open to students anytime if they let the workers know they are coming. For the community, the pantry is open on Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00-4:00 p.m. The campus food pantry serves about 80 families every other week and provides each family with 25 pounds of food each semester. The food items provided for the community are either chosen by the staff or donated by local businesses and organizations, such as Athens Food City and the Athens and Etowah food pantries.
“We have it in different categories,” said Moore of the organization of the LTNP operation. “We have breakfast items, dinner and lunch items, pantry staples, drinks, and cold items.”
Breakfast items include pancake mix, cereals, and Nutrigrain bars. Dinner and lunch feature spaghetti, hamburger helper mix, or even taco kits. Taco kits will be paired with chicken or ground beef to make a full meal. Pantry staples include flour, sugar, oil, peanut butter, and even rice. Items that are necessary in making other foods. Drinks include water, 2-liters, and any drinks left over from the mobile food pantry will be used. Frozen and cold items can include milk, eggs, cheese, and pizza.
Love Thy Neighbor Project has a mobile food pantry that goes into the McMinn County community. The mobile food pantry partners with Chattanooga Area Food Bank, who provides the food for the mobile food pantry. Since it is under a grant, the Chattanooga Area Food Bank controls what the mobile pantry receives, so the food items fluctuate. Items such as milk, bread, eggs, various meats, drinks, mac and cheese, and fresh produce are what are sent to the mobile food pantry. On average, the mobile food pantry serves around 75 pounds of food each time they go into the community, which serves about 135 families every other month.
One new project that Love Thy Neighbor has started includes back sacks, which provides food for the weekends to about 60 students in the community. Inside each back sack is two drinks, two breakfast items, two entrees, and two snacks, such as fruit snacks or granola bars. Another recent project is the re-store, which is inside their office. The re-store has clothing items that community members or students can come and pick up. Anytime Love Thy Neighbor hosts a clothing or coat drive, the clothes that are not given out goes into the re-store, so that clothing items are still available for community members.
From helping fight community hunger, to providing clothes for the community, to giving children a merry Christmas, Love Thy Neighbor is the perfect example of how we are called to serve others.