Porterfield Memorial UMC members donate more than 3,000 cans of food to charity


By Kara Witherow, Editor

One person, one can.

It may not seem like much, but when there are 2,562 people, the cans quickly added up.

That was the idea behind Porterfield Memorial United Methodist Church’s 2562 Challenge, a food drive that asked each member of the Albany congregation to donate just one can of food.

One can could be a meal for someone, said Rev. Nate Lehman, Porterfield Memorial UMC’s associate pastor, especially if it’s a high-protein food like soup, beans, peanut butter, or canned chicken.

“We really tried to get people to think of it not just as one can, but as one meal,” he said. “We want people to be aware that helping others is not as hard as we make it out to be. It’s as simple as opening your cupboard and looking and seeing that there’s one can. And one can is one meal.”

Rev. Lehman said that church leaders really wanted to come up with a mission idea that included and challenged the entire congregation, one in which everyone could easily participate. Too often, he said, only a handful of people can or do participate in missions work and outreach efforts, but Rev. Lehman knew that no matter a person’s age or heath, they could be involved in the 2562 Challenge.

“You might not be able to go and drill a well, but on your way out the door to church you can grab a can of beans out of your cabinet,” he said.

The congregation really embraced the 2562 Challenge, with Sunday school classes challenging other classes and members challenging each other to see who could donate the most cans.

At least two Sunday school classes – the Key class and the Chi class – each donated hundreds of cans to the effort, which benefited Love Thy Neighbor, a food and clothing ministry of Avalon United Methodist Church. 

“The response has been great,” Rev. Lehman said. “Our members have taken this challenge on in a big way and it’s been amazing to see their excitement.”

Every fall, the church’s Key Sunday school class hosts an annual “Make It, Bake It, Grow It” auction where members auction items they have made, baked, or grown. In the past 25 years, the class has raised more than $30,000 for missions and outreach projects. 

The class decided to spend $300 of this year’s proceeds on food for the 2562 Challenge, and bought and donated 160 cans of soup and 150 jars of peanut butter. Class members contributed additional cans, too; when combined the Key class contributed 596 cans of food.

“It’s a very mission-oriented class,” said class leader Joyce Mullinax. “They are a loving, caring class, probably one of the finest Sunday school classes you could be privileged to be a member of.”

Love Thy Neighbor Director Ed Haggerty said that the 3,000 cans will be a huge boost to their food reserves.

The Albany ministry serves about 100 people each week and gives each a bag of food. Receiving the donation from Porterfield Memorial UMC’s 2562 Challenge will allow the ministry to spend their money on perishable food – mostly meat and bread – and continue to serve their clients. 

“The cans of food they are providing are a blessing as we do the Lord’s work,” Haggerty said. “I just can’t thank Porterfield enough for what they’re doing and for helping us with our needs, and we appreciate everything they’ve done. That’s why we have a ministry called Love Thy Neighbor, to do just that, because that’s what the Lord has called us to do – to love our neighbors.”

The Porterfield Memorial UMC congregation will primarily focus on serving the Albany community in 2016, Rev. Lehman said, and the 2562 Challenge was a great, easy way to serve those in their midst.

“We want to impact our community and then impact the world,” he said. “I never expected the response that we’ve seen. We just asked for a simple can and they brought more than we imagined.”