Hope House Church has continued to serve community members, particularly those in West Jasper, throughout the pandemic.
Currently, the church is serving slightly more than 100 meals a week out of its Loaves & Fish food truck, which is parked in front of the Jasper Housing Authority each Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. This location has proved to be the most successful of the handful that were tried after the pandemic forced the church to suspend hosting twice-weekly meals in its dining area.
“In the first five minutes, we handed out 50 meals,” Tori Yielding, who began serving as the church's food administrator in January, said on a recent Wednesday.
The church resumed a food ministry eight weeks into the shutdown by serving meals outside its location on Elliott Boulevard. After the relaunch, the ministry was serving a fraction of the 200 or more people who were getting fed prior to the pandemic.
“We didn’t really think about why people come, but we realized they weren’t just looking for food. They were looking for community. Our facility is warm in the winter, cool in the summer. People may sit there for an hour or two before the meal is served just enjoying being around others and talking,” Pastor Thomas Martin said.
The next step was to take the ministry on the road.
In 2015, the church acquired a 1990s-era food truck, which was manufactured for use by The Salvation Army. The food truck ministry caught the attention of someone at “The 700 Club,” which came to Jasper to film a segment on it in October 2015.
After the relaunch last year, the decision was eventually made to set up at the Jasper Housing Authority, which was closer to the area where most people were walking from to pick up their meal at the church.
The food truck is just one part of a ministry that also provides boxes of food as well as diapers to families in need.
“We see a lot of people coming into the food kitchen who have kids, even grandparents who are raising kids. This was a good supplemental ministry that we could do. It was pretty easy to get going. The people who are in need are already coming to us,” Martin said.
The church has also reopened its doors and its shower to local residents who are homeless or who don’t have hot water at home. The showers are open whenever someone from the church is present, which is typically Monday, Wednesday and Sunday mornings.
Hope House Church launched in the Walker High School auditorium in 2013 and later relocated to the old Murphy’s Furniture building. A major renovation supported largely with grant funding created a commercial kitchen for the food ministry’s use as well as the showers.
The church will begin hosting meals at its facility again in July. The food truck’s weekly ministry to local senior living apartment complexes is also expected to resume in July.