The grocery sacks were stuffed, ready for Salem United Methodist Church's first food distribution July 15, but when few showed up for the giveaway, church volunteers took the non-perishable goods to the community instead.
About 20 volunteers spent the morning packing 100 bags of groceries for the afternoon giveaway on the parking lot of the church in Shoemakersville.
"One car showed up," said the Rev. Jennifer Freymoyer, pastor. "We waited a while and another car showed up."
They waited a while longer, and when no one else arrived, Freymoyer and the crew began reaching out.
"We called other churches and a low-income senior apartment complex just down the street," she said.
Soon, volunteers were delivering bags of groceries to the grateful residents of the complex.
They hoped to distribute the remaining food to church referrals by 7 p.m. that night.
Although the church regularly collects food for area food pantries, July 15 was the first time the congregation tried a direct food distribution, Freymoyer said.
The bulging bags were packed for distribution on a first-come, first-served basis and were available for anyone in need, she said.
The goal was to give families a little boost to make it through the month while schools are no longer able to serve meals, she said.
Church members began collecting canned and dry goods last month, and the effort exploded after Freymoyer posted on social media websites.
“We got a lot of donations,” she said. “It is exciting to see people wanting to help and this is a way for them to help.”
More than 35 church and community members contributed, Freymoyer said.
News of the grocery giveaway also was spread via social media and word of mouth, she said.
Volunteers anticipated a large turnout, but didn't get the expected response.
"It forced us to get out into the community instead of the community coming to us, which is really beautiful," Freymoyer said.