Story By Karlee Collins Photos By Shelia Scott
It began over 25 years ago when basically five churches came together to put the resources together to help people that were in need,” Lisa Bush, the Manna House director, explains. “And it grew and snowballed into what it is today.” The Manna House is a ministry of food assistance to Effingham county residents that find themselves in need.
Lisa Bush has been a part of the ministry since 1999 and has been the director for ten years.
Today, the Manna House is a food pantry that serves approximately nine hundred families every month. “The families can come every month and get that food assistance. They normally receive anywhere from 100-150 pounds of food when they come in,” Lisa shares. “For a lot of them, we are their only hope for food assistance, and they really depend on coming here and getting that food, and without us they just wouldn’t have it.”
Partnerships are what make this project possible. “We partner with all our grocery stores in our area,” she says. “That gives us the benefit of getting donations on a corporate level and we’re able to secure a lot of food to pass out to people who need it.”
In addition, the Manna House is now supported by over twenty-five churches and partners with the school system and other businesses and programs to continue having plenty of food and man power.
Lisa is one of two paid staff for this ministry; the other is Liz Quarterman, Lisa’s assistant. Volunteers are what make the impressive numbers possible. “We have about sixty volunteers that come every week, and some of them give over fifty hours a month,” Lisa shares. “We’re open three days a week to the public, so we have some very dedicated volunteers that give of their time, and we could not operate without them.”
Liz has been at the Manna House for four years, and one of her favorite parts is seeing the unity of the volunteers in helping their fellow Effingham County residents. “There’s so many people from different walks of lives, denominations, church backgrounds coming together for one common cause, and that is to meet the needs of the people of Effingham county,” Liz says. The volunteers help to sort and distribute the food donations as well as run the thrift store that helps financially support the ministry.
When a family or individual comes to the Manna House for the first time, they go into the office area and are asked to show proof of residency and identification. After the paperwork has been completed, the family is taken to the food pantry building where they are given a cart full of groceries. “The first time clients are always the super best ones,” Liz explains. “We bring out the cart, and I don’t know what their expectations are and then they start crying.”
Each cart is equipped with staples like grains, canned goods, and dairy products. Depending on what donations have come in, there are many special things, like fresh fruits and veggies or baked goods. Lisa shares, “They’re basically like ‘is all that for me?’” Liz explains that the food may not get them through the whole month, but it will free up some money for whatever is causing pressure in their lives. “People live their lives every single day with needs and a lot of people think ‘homeless,’ but you know what, it can be anyone,” she says. “Anyone that’s had an unexpected bill, a sick baby, a car break down, the house flooded, husband got laid off a job…it can be anything, and they can come here and get food. The money that they were going to buy food with they can help with the need.” Whatever the case may be, the Manna House is full of loving people and ready to assist as much as possible.
Throughout the fall, some projects will be going on to further assist residents in need and to get more people involved in supporting the Manna House ministries. “We will be doing our Fall Food Drive,” Lisa shares. “We reach out to the community, businesses and individuals in our churches that are interested in taking one grocery bag.” Each bag comes back filled with goods that help stock the food pantry. She says, “We put that plead out and it’s usually an overwhelming result.”
In addition, the Manna House is partnering with the school system and Woodmen of the World for an exciting project. “It’s going to be an effort within the schools to raise awareness for hunger and to allow the schools the opportunity to earn a thousand dollar grant from Woodmen of World for their school by participating in a food drive,” she explains. Both of these initiatives along with the donations of other supporters will help with the upcoming Thanksgiving project. Each fall, families register for a special Thanksgiving meal box that comes with a turkey and many of the other side dishes that are usually on the Thanksgiving table. “That’ll just be something to help them so they don’t have to worry about where they’re going to get their Thanksgiving meal,” Lisa says. “We usually do anywhere from seven to eight hundred families in addition to what we already do each month.”
Both Lisa and Liz give all the credit to God for the work that is being done. Liz says, “God’s hand is on Effingham County in so many different ways. If you never knew anything about the Manna House, it is amazing to see how big He works here. We all grew up thinking that He was big, but we see it truly in every day.”
Lisa and Liz have watched as provisions have been made in unexpected ways, and they give God all the credit. Lisa shares one particular incident: “We needed somebody to help with some maintenance issues outside, and out of the blue, I get a community service worker that we don’t know the guy, but he shows up and he’s a master electrician and a master carpenter.”
Liz adds, “Last year 1800 gallons of milk showed up right after the hurricane.” The Manna House had no power, but all this milk and bread was provided along with plenty of volunteers, and they created a drive-thru for those that needed assistance during that tough time. “To me, it was the most exciting thing that has happened here. When people couldn’t buy milk and they couldn’t buy groceries, He provided enough to feed hundreds,” Liz shares.
The Manna House’s main purpose is to provide food to those in need, but it gives so many other gifts to the community through uniform assistance for school kids, the thrift store for the public, volunteer opportunities for students with disabilities, community service opportunities, workman’s compensation partnerships, and much more.
Effingham County is blessed to have an organization full of people willing to serve and help, but there are always needs to be filled in order to make this ministry function at its best. “We’d like for the community to know, we’re an entity here that can use your financial support,” Liz says. Monetary donations can help to ensure that operations continue smoothly and can also help purchase food in bulk for better prices than can be found in a grocery store.
Donations of food for the pantry and items for the thrift store are also great ways to be involved in this community ministry. The Manna House’s team plans to continue serving well and wants to grow to serve better, and the community has a wonderful opportunity to rally behind this mission!