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ELM CITY — As a third grader, Rachel Thomason remembers riding with her grandmother and seeing a church with a food pantry.
“I was like ‘Well, why doesn’t our church have a food bank?’” said Rachel, now an eighth grader at Elm City Middle School. “So I wrote a letter to my Sunday school teacher, and we kind of voted and we all just started it.”
Every third Sunday from 4 to 5:30 p.m., Elm City Missionary Baptist Church invites members of the public to stop by and pick up food for their families.
Rachel’s mother, Amber Thomason, said Rachel is a “go-getter” and “very steadfast.”
“She is the creator of it. The church got behind her and supported her, and it’s named after her — Rachel’s Pantry,” Thomason said. “Anything she puts her mind to, she will end up doing. If she believes she can, she will do it.”
“Every month we have to grocery shop. We buy in bulk. The church donates money and food items to go toward the food pantry,” Thomason said. “It costs $200 to $300 each month to purchase enough supplies for everybody.”
Thomason said there is lots of manual labor.
“We pack the bags, we purchase the food, load it and unload it, organize it on the shelves, pack the bags and send the bags out when the customers come through,” Thomason said. “We serve anywhere from 20 to 30 people. The most we have had is like 45 coming through.”
Rachel has help from brother Jacob Thomason and friends Cayley Jones, Austin Kiefer and Caleb Keifer.
“At Bible school, we collect food for everybody. It’s going good,” Rachel said. “We have had some down weeks and some up weeks.”
The children give out bags with prepacked meals.
“There’s a spaghetti bag, a beef stew and rice bag, a chicken noodle bag and a ham and sloppy joe bag,” Rachel said. “Then they can pick one thing off of our extras shelf. Then you have your starches, vegetables, fruits and proteins.”
Rachel said on busy days, the need in the community is evident.
“It’s overwhelming because we are all running around in the room and we are all doing everything, and it’s real nice,” Rachel said. “It says that there is the need. People just have to be willing to come, because we are willing to give.”
Rachel, who wants to be a large animal veterinarian when she grows up, is heavily involved with 4-H through the Elm City 4-H Club, the Shooting Sports 4-H Club and the Wilson Wranglers 4-H club. The 13-year-old will be showing pigs in the upcoming Wilson County 4-H Livestock Show and Sale in March.
She is the daughter of Amber and Jason Thomason of Elm City.
Geraldine Alston of Wilson was among around 20 people who came to the church on a recent Sunday to get food.
“It’s wonderful. It helps a lot of people. It helps my family. I know that,” Alston said. “I think that was fantastic.”
Alston praised Rachel.
“You can tell she was raised right,” Alston said. “This makes a whole lot of difference in a whole lot of people’s lives in this community.”
Alston said other young people should take notice of Rachel and emulate her.
“They should come out here and see her work and give out food,” Alston said. “They should see an example of what they could do.”
Rachel said anyone who would like to donate to the cause can bring canned food and nonperishables to the 206 W. Wilson St. church on Sundays or call the church at 252-236-4434 to make arrangements.