There is no loud applause or shouts of congratulations heard on quiet mornings when faithful volunteers show up early at St. John United Methodist Church in Bridgeton, N.J., to unload pallets and crates of donated food from a truck and spread them out on tables alongside donated clothes. It’s even quiet when recipients drive up and line up to receive their much-needed bounty of blessings to help sustain them during these hard times. You might just hear cars running, food orders placed, trunks opened, and words of gratitude amid the light chatter.
But St. John UMC Bridgeton will hear plenty of well-deserved applause and congratulations at the Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s (CFBNJ) big annual fundraiser, the Blue Jean Ball, May 18, held at the Hudson House in Jersey City. Cynthia Wilks-Mosley, a leader at St. John, will receive the celebrated Hope Award on the church’s behalf, as attendees and honorees, decked out in their fancy denim attire, celebrate various awardees who are making an impact on their communities.
Mosley, who is Lenni Lenape and a leader of the Greater New Jersey Conference Committee on Native American Ministries, has worked hard to help neighbors in and around Bridgeton. The town has the lowest per capita income in the state and the health concerns that come with that dubious distinction. In fact, St. John, one of United Methodism’s oldest Native American churches, is receiving the award particularly because it intentionally gives away only healthy food to its neighbors—and lots of it.
CFBNJ, whose mission is “Food. Help. Hope.” combats food insecurity in New Jersey by providing fresh, healthy food to the most vulnerable families in the state. Food insecurity is a serious issue that affects not just adults but an agonizing number of children as well. Without the good works of this year’s Hope Award honoree, so many more would suffer hunger and malnutrition.
Key supplier of resources, social services
St. John is a key supplier of resources and social services to its community. Mosley and other volunteers offer a vaccination clinic, give away clothing and household goods, register people for food stamps, and provide the SNAP-Ed program to educate people about good nutrition. “Scripture tells us to do that, and that’s what we do,” she said.
As a retired dietician, Mosley did nutritional research and education among Native populations for years for the federal government. So, she has a special interest in providing nutritious food to her community. “We are known for being a healthy pantry,” she said. Because many of tribal members have serious health concerns—Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, stroke, heart disease, and Covid 19—the food distribution does not include any sugary cereals or other unhealthy foods. Instead, the church offers “30 tons of produce a month, serving 300 families every time we open the door.”
St. John is grateful to the Community Food Bank of NJ for providing food for their cause and partnering with them to “meet the needs of a hungry population,” said Mosley. They are also thankful to the GNJ Conference, the Greenberg Foundation, the Cook Foundation and the Community Foundation of NJ, along with other supportive churches for awarding them grants to allow them to do these good works.
Their assistance and support allowed St. John to keep its services available throughout the pandemic, despite Covid’s crippling impact on its community. The church also provides household goods, clothing, warm soup and clothing during winters, and bookbags, gently worn uniforms and supplies for school children.
“The Hope Award reflects the strength of a small church that has been an important part of its community since 1841,” Mosley said. “We view ourselves as all related, and we extend that relationship to all living beings in our community, including the plants, birds and trees, because all of us have the same Father-Creator, our God.”
Upcoming food giveaway dates are May 20 and 25. Volunteers are always needed. And new Covid booster shots are being offered May 19. Email Mosley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAIN PHOTO: Cynthia Mosley at St. John UMC Bridgeton Food Giveaway. Corbin Payne photo