Church offers saving grace for Sumner County Food Bank

SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) – After several weeks of uncertainty, we now know that First Baptist Church Hendersonville will assume operations of a new food bank for Sumner County.

The amount of work required for such a challenge is not lost on Bruce Raley, a senior associate pastor. He applauds all of the efforts of Pastor James Gill, Liberty Baptist Church and the Sumner County Food Bank.

“He and his church have done an amazing job for 14 years,” Raley said.

As the pandemic began, Raley and his community saw an opportunity to make a difference by donating more than $140,000 toward grocery purchases. They heard that there was a tremendous need as donations dwindled and more people now needed help.

“The economy as it is, inflation happens. Budgets are being cut and food is often what some people are missing out on. We don’t want that to happen,” Raley said.

We’re almost two years old now, but another issue had some fearing that the plaque would disappear forever. Years of stress had finally taken their toll and doctors advised it was time for Gill and his friend Downey Brawner to step down.

Both men will turn 80 this year. Brawner already had major surgery two weeks ago, while Gill awaits heart and cancer surgery until April.

The problem, of course, was finding a group with the manpower and experience to take on the responsibility of feeding nearly 1,000 families each month. They also have more than 300 volunteers ranging from retirees to young adults looking for community service hours.

More than 20 groups showed interest, but almost all feared the work would be too hard. When we spoke to Gill in January, he told us, “I don’t want anyone to come in here and not understand what it takes to proceed.”

Raley saw another opportunity to help his neighbors and asked his community if they would be interested in taking the leap of faith.

He says the answer was an overwhelming yes, which means moving on to the next step. The Church will have to purchase a new room as the old room in Gallatin will no longer be available.

As for the volunteers, he says they already have hundreds of people who have offered to help when they hear the church is interested in making sure that legacy lives on.

It will no doubt be a challenge, but Raley says he thinks back to the Bible, which says that where much is given, much is required.

Raley knows his church has been blessed, so it’s about giving back. For a community that wants to give so much, he says they all understand what it takes to make it happen.

“Even if we haven’t answered all of our questions at this point. God will make sure and we will make sure that this plaque continues,” Raley said.

The Sumner County Food Bank is hosting a food giveaway Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and its final giveaway at the Gallatin location on March 16. Click this link for details on times.

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