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Church to begin food distribution

Lead volunteer Dean Santamaria, left, and Pastor Brady Randall stand underneath a banner announcing Orchard Hill Church’s upcoming food distribution. ERIC FREEHLING/BUTLER EAGLE

The hungry in Butler will have a new place to go for food come Saturday when Orchard Hill Church, 120 Walker Ave., starts a drive-through food distribution from 9 to 11 a.m. in the church parking lot.

Pastor Brady Randall said Orchard Hill Butler, part of a three-church community that also has locations in Wexford and the Strip District in Pittsburgh, is partnering with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank to distribute groceries to those in need on the last Saturday of the month.

Vehicles of food distribution recipients will be directed through the Orchard Hill parking lot to pick up the boxes of food.

“We're calling it a food distribution, drive-through on the last Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.,” Randall said. “People can come right through the church parking lot and get a box of food — 30 pounds of dry goods and fresh produce — put right into their vehicles.”

The food comes from the Pittsburgh food bank. There is no need to make an appointment or register to receive food. Randall said recipients have to fill out a page of basic information for the food bank.

“The boxes at this event usually have up to 17 items. These boxes are usually filled with shelf-stable items like canned fruits and vegetables, non-meat protein like beans, a grain product, shelf-stable meat, some sort of meal like canned meatballs and spaghetti, some might have baking mixes and cereal," Christa Johnson, communications and public relations specialist with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank said.

Johnson said the Pittsburgh food bank as brought on a few new partners in Butler since the pandemic started.

The church plans to hold the food distributions from 9 to 11 a.m. the last Saturday of the month for the foreseeable future.

Randall said he knew there were a number of food banks in Butler, but he was approached by another church which told him there was “more need than was currently provided for, particularly in this neighborhood.”

Gregg Jacobs, the pastor of the Butler location of Allison Park Church, 101 Clearview Circle in the Clearview Mall, anticipates the food distribution will make a “great impact in that area.”

Jacobs said the Allison Park Church started its own food bank in the spring of 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, the church gave out 350,000 pounds of food.

Orchard Hill is staging its food distribution on the last Saturday of every month because people are more in need at the end of the month, as their money and groceries run out, Randall said.

Church member Dean Santamaria is the lead volunteer of the 30 church members who will be working the food distribution on Saturday.

“I think the food distribution is biblical; it’s missionary. Our beautiful church on Walker Avenue has an opportunity to become a beacon in our community, helping people who would have difficulty otherwise,” Santamaria said.

Santamaria added there was a groundswell of volunteers offering to help at the food distribution, a core group he believes will be available for future initiatives the church will launch.

Orchard Hill is offering more than groceries.

“There will be an opportunity to have prayer for those who want prayer but it won’t be forced on anyone,” Randall said.

Orchard Hill wants to get the word out to anybody who may be in need.

“We’re happy to meet the need where there is one,” said Randall. “We want to be the hands and feet of Jesus. We want to love the community as best as we can.

“We’re not trying to hit anyone over the head with the Bible. This is a tangible way to really love our Butler community,” said Randall.

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