Growing with purpose: Aumsville church establishes food pantry, community garden

November, 2017 Posted in Community

IMG_20171025_155742711By Mary Owen

Mama’s Table will be spread with thanksgiving this month – and next.

The free meal, courtesy of Aumsville Pentecostal Church of God, will celebrate with food grown in their own Dove’s Echo Gardens. The meals are a part of the church’s whole outreach package: food bank, community gardens, community family meals, weekend food program, yearly backpack/school supply giveaway, monthly project night for adults, among the many more ideas in the works.

“The idea for Mama’s Table was born from witnessing firsthand what people are in need of when they come into the food bank,” said Rocky Nylund, who pastors the church with her husband, Eric. “As pastors, Eric and I know that people’s needs run many directions. Whole health comes when an individual’s needs are met on physical, spiritual, emotional, relational and cultural levels.

“While we can’t meet all of these needs, we endeavor to take steps in our community to do all we can,” she added. “As the practice of sitting around the family table declines, we came up with the idea of a place for folks to eat a home-cooked meal and have the opportunity to build relationships. Mama’s Table!”

Plans are to have food on Mama’s Table at 6:30 p.m. on the second Friday of every month at the church, 10153 Mill Creek Road in Aumsville.

“This month, it is on the third Friday because we are still in preparation,” Nylund said. “It is open to all, and is not based on income status. This is a community event. In order to have a healthy family, you need all ages and types. The same is true in the community, which we see as our large-scale, extended family.”

Both from the Aumsville area, the Nylunds have pastored Aumsville PCG for a year now. They have two children, three godchildren that they claim as theirs, and another young man that they “adopted” into their “crazy bunch.”

“We are currently thinking about adding another one,” Nylund said. “In addition to our kids, they have blessed us with three daughters-in-law and a son-in-law. More importantly, they have given us the world’s two cutest god-grandsons and the sweetest, most beautiful god-granddaughter. We also have three granddogs, but who’s counting!”

Taking the place of retiring pastor of 30 years, the Rev. Walt Magby, in June of last year, the couple calls their journey “incredible!”

“So much has happened,” Nylund said. “God rooted us here for a specific purpose, a purpose we had never even considered. As pastors, our thought has always been to create a church that is a family and to enlarge that family by being a true part of the community. The motto of our congregation is: Hope, Community, Purpose.”

When first at PCG, the Nylunds were approached by a woman who asked if they were going to keep a few food items on hand in case anyone who was hungry came by the church. That conversation led to calling Marion-Polk Food Share, and by the end of August, the Aumsville Food Bank had become a reality.

“We didn’t want to be any food pantry though,” Nylund shared. “We wanted to serve the best way possible. So we asked questions about new ways of helping those who came to the food bank, and the answer was a shopping-style pantry. Now when folks come to our pantry, they use a shopping cart and go through our small ‘store’ and take whatever they can use for their family’s particular food needs.”

A community gardens program grew out of a free workshop, “Seed to Supper,” held last spring, with most items donated to build raised beds. Home Depot in Corvallis supplied seeds, and Recology and the city of Aumsville assisted with compost and 50/50 mix soil.

“Dove’s Echo Gardens, so named because we have a very boisterous resident dove on our premises, was able to grow more than a ton of produce that went directly to the food bank this year as well as more that went to the dinner tables of the growers around here,” Nylund said. “We are expecting much more than that this next year as we are adding a 2,500 sq.ft. in-ground area for planting.”

The pastors credit members of their congregation and others in the community for helping the church reach its goals.

“Each time we think of something new, someone supports us in one way or another,” Nylund said. “To see the way our church has grown spiritually and in relation to our community has been more than we could have dreamed. At this point, at least 30 of our people have donated time and/or resources on a regular basis. Since we only had 10 members when we became pastors, we often stand back and shake our heads wondering where they all came from.

“We are still a small congregation of about 30 members strong, though attendance is about 50-75,” she said.

“We actually have had people tell us that we can’t possibly be doing the community any ‘favors’ because we are just the little yellow church. Our answer is this: ‘We are bigger on the inside than we look on the outside.’ We are simply being a part of the community.”

Mama’s Table will be set to celebrate the holidays in style, and church members are planning to make the meals as special as possible, Nylund said.

“Depending on what we can come up with, we hope to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal and to have gifts for each one at Christmastime,” she said.

Nylund said future plans are “big and growing bigger each day.”

“Eric and I have had a lot of people tell us that we dream too big,” she said, acknowledging “someone has to do it.”

Their biggest “next” is to build two new outbuildings/sheds to house the pantry.

“In addition, we are remodeling a bathroom to be handicapped-friendly, and it will include a shower for folks that do not have access to running water,” Nylund said. “We would love eventually to be able to house a small laundry facility at which families who need to could do one of two loads a week without charge.”

But, Nylund said, the biggest dream is to begin taking steps toward educating the community – hosting a cultural exchange group, integrating those with hearing or other physical challenges, holding work-related resource fairs, or even helping with ways to assist people with transportation needs.

“We’ve been discussing contacting Cherriots to see if it would be feasible to put a bus stop at the church,” she said. “CARTS comes through Aumsville, but only has a downtown stop. For folks utilizing our resources, it would help to not have to walk all that way.”

The love of Christ is what compels the couple to reach out, and Nylund assures they are “not legendary by any means.”

“We are simply two people who love a place full of people that have become our family,” she said.

For more information or to donate/volunteer, call Aumsville PCG at 971-719-5665 or e-mail Aumsvillepcg@gmail.com. Donations can be sent to Aumsville PCG, P.O. Box 104, Aumsville, OR 97325.

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