The Rev. Martin Milne, of , says he’s always dreamed of being the church of the community.
“A church that’s not involved with the community and with its people I just don’t think is a church,” he says.
Milne became involved with Zion's in 2006, but soon after he started, he realized there wasn’t much that united the area. One day, he had a conversation with an inner-city pastor that gave him an idea.
“It almost sounded like [the pastor] felt that… because of where he was located in the city, that all the poor and hungry and homeless were all there,” Milne says. “And I thought to myself, ‘Well that’s not true. They’re in the country too.’”
So Milne contacted the local ministerium of clergy in December of 2008 and asked if they would help him begin a Food Pantry for those in need. By May of 2009, they had one up and running, beginning with only one or two families. By that fall, the numbers had doubled, and now, the Food Pantry feeds more than 250 people each month.
“It was my hope that it wouldn’t be just a church thing, but that it would be community-supported,” he says. “Now, there are people who come in here weekly that I’ve never seen before who have decided to donate food and money.”
Milne also brought the community together when the unexpected October “snowpocalypse” caused massive power outages. when he realized it had heat and power, even though the surrounding areas didn’t.
“I contacted our church council and told them I was going to keep the church open for 24 hours until people could get power back, and no one asked questions,” Milne says. “They just said ‘do it.’”
After contacting WFMZ-TV and Patch.com to try to get the word out, Milne contacted Second Harvest Food Bank (the Food Pantry’s agency) and told them he wanted to use some of the Pantry’s food to feed the people there. With hot coffee, French onion soup, and an Internet connection, the church became a small safe house.
and so did Milne, even though he had power at his own home.
“I thought, ‘How can I be with the people if I, myself am going to leave and go home and be fat and comfortable while everyone else is freezing?’” he says. “It seemed wrong to have all the amenities and not do something about it.”