COALFIELD, Tenn. (WATE) — Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the area, a food bank in Morgan County has become a vital source of nutritional meals to more than 150 families.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare was in Coalfield this week, where the feeding program has grown from serving just a hand-full of poeple a few years ago.

The food bank program, “Hope for the Hungry” has expanded a lot in the small community of Coalfield. With the pandemic and many older people not wanting to leave their homes to go shopping, they’re provided an ample amount of food and its distribution is very efficient.

No time is wasted at handing out bags of food at the Hope For The Hungry distribution site in Coalfield. Since the pandemic began, this food bank serves as an essential source for perishable and non-perishable food to those in need.

Vehicles start lining up before 10 in the morning behind the Coalfield Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Qualified families from Morgan and Roane Counties are eligible for free meals provided to the church by Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

“We started this ministry around four years ago with only five families local.  We never dreamed that it would turn in to what it has turned into,” Lonnie Cook, pastor, Coalfield Seventh Day Adventist Church, said.

Inside the church building, volunteers grab pre-packaged bags of food stored on dozens of shelves. Before the shopping carts make their way outside where the food is handed out, the buggies have to be filled first.

“We come through that door right there and make a circle from this room to the other room. We just have to grab a bag. We have all of them numbered,” Danny Treece, a volunteer, says. “You just have to follow a number. You don’t have to worry about what is in the bag. Six, seven, eight, nine, whatever. Grab one of each, put it in the cart and go on through.”

Melissa Hamby, a corrections officer, is a regular volunteer who prefers working directly with the people. She’s aware of how her kind words and generosity affect the those receiving the meals.

“I was once there. I was once there at one time. So, I know what it means. I want to give back to the community,” Hamby said.

Many here this week will return on the third Friday of August, the next regularly scheduled distribution that gives hope for the hungry.

“If you let God go, things grow, flourish and people are blessed. We are blessed here in this church as much as the people out here who are receiving this food,” Pastor Cook said.

We first visited the Coalfield Seventh Day Adventist Food Bank two months ago and at the time, we mentioned their need for a refrigerated storage unit.

They have since received it and soon will have a trailer on which to haul the cooling unit.

They’ll use it for storage and to haul perishable food to another food bank in Jamestown — which is another example of how people in East Tennessee are serving others during this ongoing pandemic.