Manna Ministries solving problems
by BETTIE MARLOWE, Banner Staff Writer
Sep 28, 2012 | 1075 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Manna Ministries
CAROL MARR has served as the director of Manna Ministries of First Baptist Church for 15 years. She said she is blessed to work at a place where so much compassion and love is shown to people. Banner photo, WILLIAM WRIGHT
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When Carol Marr came to serve at Manna Ministries of First Baptist Church 15 years ago, she found a small, but active and growing, ministry which had been serving the Cleveland community for five years. A few canned goods were given out Monday through Thursday — or as long as the supply lasted — with only one volunteer to help.

When the food store was depleted, the doors had to be closed — it was day-to-day.

As the economy worsened, more people began coming, so the ministry had to increase to keep up and it did. Manna Ministries moved from its small quarters to its own section which had an outside entrance, restrooms and water fountain. Shelving held groceries obtained from local stores for the growing clientele.

And it kept growing. People who had lost their jobs came for help — word-of-mouth was an invitation to come to Manna Ministries. And the need outgrew the supply. At times, people were lined up out the door. “We didn’t close,” Marr said.

Donations — food and money — and visits to stores filled the need.

Sunday to Sunday, church attendees brought donations, bags of food and boxed goods that would complete the inventory for another week. “We don’t try to stockpile the items,” Marr said. “It is ‘in and out.’”

A bigger place had to be found, so the ministry located to a Sunday school classroom. Real grocery shelves were installed and more people became involved.

“There were these retired guys,” Marr began, “whose exercise was getting food and stocking shelves.” She said they would go out with pickup trucks, get the food and stock the shelves. “They are still doing it,” she said, “but now the food is delivered to us.”

The numbers, she observed, increased dramatically and at that time, some 900 applications were in to be filled. Marr said they always made sure the food was not outdated — “We serve only value and healthy food.” She said nothing is accepted they themselves wouldn’t have.

The ministry operated from the classroom until after the church facilities moved to Stuart Road. Lee University gave them time to relocate and, this April, the ministry moved into its own special place in the church parking lot — a place designed and built to specifications for what was needed. “People came and met the need. It was workable,” Marr said.

“Now,” she said, “we have a warehouse with food and sundry items. There is a working area and we have an air-conditioning system. “And the guys still stock the shelves,” she added. They do everyday cleanup and shelve the food — the process is “neat,” she said.

Since there is no budget for the ministry, church members are great about bringing extra items, Marr said, and everyone gives generously to purchase food. She said they found that is a good way to do it.

The budget stopped eight or 10 years ago, “but the giving has been much better and the members love it,” Marr said. “We exceed the need.”

Some 40 volunteers work in the ministry with the “warehouse” open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon.

People have no problem getting to this location, she said, and “there is a lot going on.”

When people come in, an application for them is put in the computer and volunteers help everyone who comes for help. “We never know what the day will hold,” Marr said. “That is what we do and we’re able to help with other needs, also.” She said that in all these years, there has never been a problem.

Marr said the senior adult ministry has been a part of her life for 15 years as well. “They are the joy in my ministry,” she explained. “From the lunches we offer each month for them to the trips we go on for the fun and fellowship, I look forward to the time we spend together.”

There are approximately 1,200 seniors, age 57 and up, and, “with the baby boomers, it is growing!” Marr said. She has witnessed many stories with community ministry through the years and she shared a favorite:

“A man came to the church asking for work boots,” Marr began. “He had a job, but boots were required. When I placed them in front of him he began to cry.”

Marr asked him if there was something wrong with them.

He said “No, but they are 'steel-toed.’”

She asked what was wrong with that and he said, “Nothing” — because now he “could have the better paying job.”

“Wow, we didn't even think about the type boot,” Marr said, “but God knew!”

Marr has lived in Cleveland since 1989. She came from Paris, Tenn., (known for the world’s biggest fish fry) at age 22.

“I landed in Cleveland and it’s home to me,” she declared. She met her husband, David, here and they have been married 17 years this past August. He works at SkyRidge Medical Center, in dialysis.

Before coming to Manna Ministries, Marr worked five years for Drs. Jaggers, Marcum, Clark and Buckner as their receptionist. As much as she enjoyed her work, though, she left to come to First Baptist for this job. She said she learned so much from Bill Griffith — “that everyone is different. And if there is only one person who needs to talk, he is deserving.” He said to be mindful of that.

People call, Marr said, devastated and crying — “day in and day out, we see the same problems.”

On her desk is the quote: “What if yours was the last voice someone would hear today, what would you say?”

But whether it’s a phone call or a visit, the need is not lessened. Marr said she is so glad the church has compassion and a love for people. “I feel blessed to work here,” she confided.