Once a month for 30 years, “Magic Mike” Robertson, and his changing brigade of about 45 volunteers, have been clapping together sandwiches at Sydenstricker United Methodist Church, at the impressive rate of about 3,000 sandwiches per day. Aromas tempt the taste buds over the three hours it takes to make so many tuna fish, peanut butter & jelly, and meat and cheese constructions that are individually bagged and then boxed in banana crates for transport to So Others Might Eat (SOME).
Since 1970, SOME and Martha’s Table before it, have been providing sandwiches to the hungry in the area with the help of other area charities, and providing other services needed due to homelessness and poverty. The church invites volunteers to join them in sandwich making the first Thursday each month starting at 9 a.m.
In another section of the church’s large social hall, Jane Shafer’s idea is “flour-ing” with pantry items in the church’s food corner. During the 2019 government shutdown, “People needed food. Single moms were working two jobs but not making enough to eat,” Shafer said. The church began providing four to five hot meals per week for a growing number of clients who heard of their efforts through social media, the church website, and by word of mouth.
Covid-19 considerations forced a change in their offering model. They started taking food out to clients, instead of bringing clients in for meals. Organizer Amy Dannamiller says they track the number of clients, but take no identification information to preserve confidentiality. During 2021, the church has been making food available, weekly, for as many as 102 families.
Where does all the food come from to provide for those experiencing food insecurity? Bonnie Jamison, wife of church pastor Don Jamison, credits the generosity of local grocers at several locations of Giant Foods, the Aldi in Springfield, and the volunteers who visit those stores, often making multiple trips per day to collect offered items. The stores provide food nearing but not yet at expired dates, end of season products, and overstocked items.
Needed items that are in low supply are ordered from the Capital Area Food Bank in Newington. Shafer adds that a very supportive congregation donates funds for purchase of eggs and meat from places such as Restaurant Depot. And if the food corner has more of a food item than needed, it is donated to Arlington or Fairfax County food pantries. As a result, Shafer adds, “almost nothing goes to waste.” The Sydenstricker food corner is open for pick ups on Tuesdays from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
For the holiday period, food operations mostly will continue as usual, except clients may find the addition of a festive cookie mix jar added to pick up boxes. The congregation also typically collects for 50 families in need at Crestwood Elementary School, in honor of a deceased congregant who taught there.
What does it take to provide this level of community support? A large church kitchen and assembly hall, nine freezers, three commercial-sized refrigerators, and a generous congregation and community adding to “blessing boxes” for donations or pick up of needed items when the church is not open. Of course, most of all it is the willingness of community members, many who are not members of the church, to donate their time. Whether it’s “Magic Mike” in his 80s or first time volunteer Matthew, aged 3, all volunteers are valued.For more information about donations or volunteering, see www.SydenstrickerUMC.org or call 703 451-8223; church location 8508 Hooes Road, Springfield.