GALLATIN, Tenn. (WTVF) — After spending years feeding families in Sumner County, one of Middle Tennessee’s largest food banks could be on their last days unless they find new management.
Pastor James Gill has been serving others for more than 50 years, but won’t hesitate to tell anyone this was one of the hardest decisions he’s ever made.
The walls of the food bank are covered with newspaper clippings of times where either he’s been there for the community or vice versa. One article from the Hendersonville Standard stands out with the title “Sumner County Food Bank to close in 2022.”
It’s not the article that bothers Gill, it’s the response from the community that’s made his decision to step down even more heartbreaking.
“In the last couple of weeks, I have had hundreds of phone calls from 'shame on you' to 'I understand and God bless you,'” Gill said.
Gill has been the voice of the food bank where he makes calls and organizes donations throughout the county. They’ve come a long way since their days working out of a 10 by 10 room where they may have served 100 to 150 families every month. That number is now up to 1,000.
At any given time, they have more than 300 volunteers between retirees and young adults in search of community service hours. Downey Brawner manages people and supplies from his small notepad, as they stack food to the ceiling.
The pandemic made it even more important to always have food readily available, especially for families perhaps experiencing this need for the first time.
“I’ve got to make sure that I have enough food left to feed people in February and March,” Brawner said.
April is what has everyone worried the most. No matter how many donations they get, one thing you can’t buy is time.
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.
“My doctors have told me and they’ve told me, 'Mr. Brawner, that if you don’t take the stress off, you’re going to die,'” Gill said.
The decision was made to walk away, but hopefully find someone or some group to continue their legacy.
“I’ve had them come showing great interest, but I don’t want anyone to come here and not understand what’s required to continue,” Gill said.
Some have made offers to transform the lot into something other than a food bank, but Gill prays it won’t come to that. Faith in the community has seen them through before. Hopefully, this is no different.
The following food giveaways are all that remain on the schedule:
- Feb. 15 from 8 a.m. to noon (drive-thru only)
- March 16 from 8 a.m. to noon (drive-thru only)
If you or anyone you know is interested in possibly taking over the food bank, feel free to contact them directly at their website or call 615-504-6182.