Religion News: Grace Grocery Finds New Support and Updates Procedures

On behalf of the vendors at the Crozet Farmers Market, Market Manager Al Minutolo donates $1,000 to benefit Grace Grocery, the food program at Crozet United Methodist Church. The Church is represented by Jolly and Hank Weil.

Grace Grocery, the food pantry sponsored by the people of Crozet UMC, has re-opened its on-site shopping to patrons. During the pandemic, patrons were served by driving by and picking up a pre-packed box of assorted groceries. Now, said Diana Pace, a Grace Grocery volunteer, people can come in and choose food according to their own needs. The grocery is open now every Monday from 3:30 to 5 p.m., and there are grocery drop-offs twice a month for those unable to travel to downtown Crozet. The free food project is almost back to its pre-pandemic volume, with 30 to 40 people served each week, and another 28 or so each time food is delivered to homes.

Patrons have more of a choice now, she said, since the church became part of Wegman’s “partner pickup” program. Volunteers travel to Charlottesville every Saturday to fill a truck with items that Wegman’s pulls from its shelves, coolers and freezers, food that is still good but nearing its sell-by date. 

The partnership with Wegman’s has helped enormously, Pace said, since the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank—another Grace Grocery supplier—is often out of staple items, particularly meats. The church has another generous partner in Crozet Market, where the grocery volunteers are offered discounted meat to pass on to those who need it. “They also package it according to our needs,” Pace said. This partnership has been in place for a long time and has greatly contributed to the quality and variety of offerings each Monday. Pace said she’s already put the contribution from the Crozet Farmers Market (see photo) to good use and has placed an order for Christmas turkeys and hams. 

Pace described those who come each Monday as mostly older people on fixed incomes, but there are families there, too. “I know we can’t supply all their needs, but everything they get here on Monday is that much less they’ll have to buy at the store.” 

One enterprising volunteer has made it a project to find and refurbish children’s books, and she makes them available to the grocery’s patrons. “They’ve been very popular,” Pace said. “Every week, all of them are gone.”

Here’s how Grace Grocery works: people show up at the back entrance to the church and wait outside until it’s time for them to shop. A patron assistant will guide them through, placing the groceries in a cart, and helping them load the bags into their cars. “Everyone has been really good about bringing their own reusable bags,” Pace said. “That has helped a lot, since we don’t have to furnish bags now.” She’s always glad to see that those assembled on the patio recognize each other and talk, a few moments of community for those who are often isolated. 

How can you help? Financial contributions are always welcome, Pace said. She noted that it’s a project that extends beyond the UMC congregation. Many of the volunteers who do the Wegmans pickup, sort the food, serve the patrons, and help load the cars, are not church members. “Volunteer opportunities are on our web site and volunteers are always needed,” she said.

Grace Grocery is open every Monday, regardless of holidays, except when bad weather closes it.

Young Artists Create their Vision for a Greener Planet

The Rumi Forum asks school children in Albemarle County to enter their art in a contest for middle school students. The Annual Peace and Dialogue Art Contest provides a yearly creative incentive for students to explore different social issues. The Forum was founded in 1999 to foster interfaith dialogue and intercultural understanding. This year’s theme, “Toward a Greener Planet,” invites young artists to explore the environmental issues in our world, whether from a local or global perspective. Some of the topics recommended are reducing waste, conserving water, preventing pollution, recycling, composting and waste management, lowering greenhouse gases, and renewable energy.

For more information about the contest, including the submission rules, email [email protected]. The submission deadline for the contest is December 9. 

Father Justin McIntosh speaks to Joseph Varaksa and Richard VanArsdale, chaplains of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, as part of St. Paul’s Rector’s Forum. Submitted photo.

St. Paul’s Presents the Rector’s Forum

Each Sunday morning this fall St. Paul’s, Ivy, offers an hour with the Rev. Justin McIntosh in conversation with speakers on a variety of topics. The series is open to parishioners and non-parishioners. October’s topics include the history of one church’s stand against racism, current projects underway by the Habitat for Humanity, space exploration, and the existence of evil, as detailed below.

  • October 9: The Rev. Roy Pollina will discuss the historical record of Christ Episcopal Church in Martinsville, and its fight against racism.
  • October 16:  G. Kelly Eplee, director of donor relations at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, will provide an update on the Southwood project and other Habitat for Humanity projects.
  • October 23:  Dr. Kathryn C. Thornton, physicist and former NASA astronaut, will discuss space exploration.
  • October 30:  Dr. Charles Matthewes, the Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at UVa., will question why evil exists.

Find more details and the schedule for November and December on the church’s website, Each session in the series will be recorded and available at Virginia/videos. 

Volunteers decorate their cars for the popular “trunk or treat” event at Crozet Baptist Church. The event is planned this year for 5 p.m. October 30 in the church parking lot. Submitted photo.


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