Hendersonville church offers saving grace for Sumner County Food Bank

Church will take over food bank operation in April
First Baptist Church Hendersonville1.JPG
Posted at 6:19 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 21:13:50-05

SUMNER COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) — After several weeks of uncertainty, we now know First Baptist Church Hendersonville will take over the operations of a new food bank serving Sumner County.

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

“He and his church did an incredible job for 14 years,” Raley said.

Early in the pandemic, Raley and his congregation saw an opportunity to make a difference by donating more than $140,000 to purchase food. They heard there was a tremendous need as donations dipped, meanwhile more people required help.

“The economy the way it is, the inflation happening. Budgets are being tightened and oftentimes food is that which some people go without. We do not want that to happen,” Raley said.

Now we’re nearly two years in, but another issue had some worried the food bank would be gone for good. Years of stress had finally taken their toll and doctors advised it was time Gill and his friend Downey Brawner stepped down.

Both men turn 80 this year. Brawner already had major surgery two weeks ago, meanwhile, Gill is waiting until April for heart and cancer surgery.

The trouble of course was finding a group with the manpower and experience to take on the responsibility of feeding nearly 1,000 families every month. They also have more than 300 volunteers between retirees and young adults in search of community service hours.

More than 20 groups showed interest, but almost all worried the job was too hard. When we spoke to Gill in January he told us, “I don’t want anyone to walk in here and not understand what’s required to continue.”

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

He says the response was an overwhelming yes, which now means moving on to the next step. The church has to purchase a new space since the old space in Gallatin will no longer be available.

As for volunteers, he says they’ve already had hundreds of people offer their help once they heard the church was interested in making sure this legacy lives on.

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

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

“Even though we don’t have all of our questions answered at this time. God is going to provide and we’re going to see that food bank continue,” Raley said.

The Sumner County Food Bank will host a food giveaway Tuesday from 8 to noon and their final giveaway at the Gallatin location on March 16. Click on this link for details on times.