Friendly greetings like “Have a wonderful day!” and “Drive safe!” float through the air on an otherwise gloomy Sabbath. Volunteers are cheerful, and their joy is contagious.
The occasion? It was the third Sabbath of September—distribution day for Mama Rosa’s Food Pantry, hosted at the Gardena Genesis Community church (GGCC).
When the covid pandemic began, the food pantry’s operations shifted to accommodate the situation, serving people in a drive-thru fashion. Now, cars line up around the block to receive free food for their family on two afternoons a month, and people travel from as far away as Riverside and Northridge to receive the free food. Each guest receives a box of dry food and box of produce. The food provided can last the family about two weeks.
Volunteers join the ministry from all over, and the team is diverse in more ways than one. “People come from different religious backgrounds, and some are not religious at all,” GGCC Pastor Filemu Filemu said. “We get to model love and mercy together. However, they understand the kindness and compassion that drives our team to serve consistently in Gardena.” GGCC members participate, as well as local Latter-day Saints members, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank (LARFB) volunteers, and several volunteers who were once clients themselves and saw that this ministry meant something.
“Volunteers are lined up to experience this activity on our church campus,” Filemu shared. “Our fellowship is deep and contagious. Usually, people only want to help themselves and their friends. The people who have served here, they have grown in faith and trust that we are truly here for the people of this community.”
While it’s not always easy work, the team is dedicated. The boxes are heavy, and the day is fast paced. But the intangible rewards—the thankful people, the happy company, the joy of serving—more than make up for it.
“The friendships and fellowships we have developed through the years are the real blessing of this food pantry,” Paul Randall, the food pantry director, said. “We empower all volunteers to do God’s work in this community with enjoyment and fun, so everyone receives the rewards of having the warmth in their heart and the special feeling of feeding the community, when one in five families have food insecurity.”
“Mama Rosa’s Food Pantry is an enormous blessing to the surrounding community,” said James G. Lee, Southern California Conference vice president and Adventist Community Services director. “In a short space of time—two afternoons a month—thousands of people are helped. It’s such a wonderful, positive program making a meaningful impact.”
Official partnerships and relationships throughout the city attest to the power of this ministry. The mayor, local police and fire departments, and LARFB have expressed support for this ministry in various ways.
In fact, out of 700 agencies, Mama Rosa’s Food Pantry was recognized as the July 2023 LARFB Agency of the Month: “This selection as Agency of the Month is a testament to the extraordinary commitment and dedication that you and your team have displayed in addressing food insecurity in your community. Gardena SDA has consistently demonstrated its unwavering support for the people you serve, and it is truly inspiring to see your efforts being recognized.”
As Filemu put it, “I hope we learn to serve others the way Jesus served everyone in love and compassion.”