Approximately 275 visitors to the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division (NAD) headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, procured fresh produce and received free wellness screenings on Nov. 19, 2017. This first NAD/community event comes just days before Thanksgiving, and on the heels of the Oct. 26 grand opening ceremony and dedication of the building.
Despite the cool, windy weather, more than 17,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, bananas, onions, lettuce, arugula salad mixes, organic spinach, pineapples, and more were distributed from the NAD parking lot. Excess produce from local grocers is collected and transported from food distribution centers in Maryland.
“We had people waiting in line at 9 a.m., before the delivery truck arrived. Our event wasn’t even scheduled to begin until 10 o’clock,” said Melissa Reid, associate director of the NAD’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department, and main event coordinator. “By 12:30 p.m. we had given out all the fresh produce.”
After the produce pickup, visitors were offered hot chocolate and then encouraged to enter the building’s front doors to start the screening process.
The NAD partnered with nearby Howard County General Hospital to provide the following screenings for 40 visitors: blood pressure, stroke risk assessments, prediabetes risk assessments, BMI measurements. The hospital also offered follow up information and connections to Howard County resources and the opportunity to obtain long-term assistance through its support network.
While some participants learned of the event through social media, many found out through flyers sent home with their children. One mother, whose child attends Stevens Forest Elementary School, missed out on some of the food varieties, but was grateful to take home a box of bananas and several plastic cartons of salad greens. “This morning I was cleaning out his backpack and saw the flyer in his Friday folder,” she explained. “I came right over. I’m glad I got some [of the food]. It’s a blessing.”
“We were thrilled with the local public school system’s willingness to distribute our flyer prior to the event,” said Reid. “That made a huge difference in our attendance numbers.”
The Adventist Church’s North American Division relocated to Howard County in late September, and is endeavoring to become an active presence in its new community.
“The NAD Thanksgiving Produce Giveaway and Wellness Screening was a tremendous success in terms of meeting the needs of those in our local community,” said Orlan Johnson, director of the NAD’s Public Affairs and Religious Liberty Department. “It is our heartfelt desire to do all we can to make sure that here at the new NAD headquarters we are heeding the words of Matthew 25 by assisting our neighbor in need. It is our goal to not be content just to be in the community, but we strive to be part of the community. Sunday was a great start!”
“Journey to Better Health was invited to participate in the first annual produce giveaway event. At this event Journey provided free health screenings and connected individuals to community resources,” said Tara B.T. Butler, Population Health Program coordinator, Journey to Better Health (J2BH). The Howard County General Hospital program partners with Howard County faith communities to help individuals proactively monitor and manage their health. “This innovative faith-based initiative complements the ministry work of our faith partners as we strive to provide holistic care (spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional) to those in our community,” said Butler.
“Our county councilwoman, Jen Terrasa, suggested we contact the principals of the local elementary and middle schools to publicize our event, and introduced us to Howard County General Hospital’s Journey to Better Health program,” said Reid. “We’ve felt so welcomed by the community so far! We are excited to continue to get to know our neighbors.”
Added Johnson, “It is our hope and prayer to host similar events at least four times a year, and to share and/or remind people of our Adventist health message—both inside and outside of our church family.”
— Kimberly Luste Maran is assistant director of Communication for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.