February 12, 2020
By Grace Thornton
The Alabama Baptist
Melanie Deal said she’s loved every day of the 16 years she’s gotten to direct the ministry center at Southeast Alabama Baptist Association.
“You get to encounter people you never would otherwise and share Christ with them,” she said.
But since the center has made some changes in the past five years, it’s even more fun, Deal said. “We were averaging around 20–30 salvations a year, but since we’ve made some changes, we’re seeing so many more. We had 66 in 2019.”
Some of the changes they’ve made are geared toward building a long-term relationship with their clients, Deal said. For instance, two days a week, volunteers will inventory the pantry, provide the clients who visit with a list and allow them to choose their groceries rather than receiving a pre-made box of food.
‘Developing a relationship’
“With that simple change, people began to realize we’re not just throwing food at them but developing a relationship with them,” she said.
The association also offers financial classes for long-term clients and refers all to a local church.
And more changes are still to come. The recent purchase of an adjacent building will allow a large enough pantry space for clients to go shopping on their own for food items. And in the future, they will be paired with a volunteer who will stay connected with them as they visit.
“We have made changes to make it more about relationship building with the individuals when they walk in these doors,” Deal said. “It’s been a blessing.”