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Viewer raises money to purchase cargo van for Gastonia food pantry

"What a blessing it is. It will continue to help us be able to do what we're doing," said Pastor Rodney Freeman, Mt. Zion Restoration Church.

GASTONIA, N.C. — There is a wonderful update to a story WCNC Charlotte first shared a few months ago.

WCNC anchor Fred Shropshire visited Bountiful Blessings, a food pantry in a  Gastonia church, that has been stretched to its limits because of the pandemic.

At that time, church leaders said they needed a cargo van to help volunteers get food to distribute at the pantry. On Thursday morning they received their bountiful blessing all because of a teenager who saw the story and got motivated to help.

It was business as usual Thursday morning outside Mt. Zion Restoration Church as the Bountiful Blessings Food Pantry got underway.  But a closer look shows how much fortunes have changed these last few months.

Since the beginning of this year, WCNC employees have volunteered regularly. And Thursday, staff watched the nonprofit that has helped so many people in need during the pandemic get the keys to their new van.

“Here’s the van that Halle said that we needed and here we go,” Pastor Rodney Freeman said with excitement.

Halle Toya is a junior at The Cannon School in Concord.  She first saw the WCNC report back in February and it motivated her.  Halle Toya and her father Jim Toya jumped into action.

"I went to friends, family, business leaders in the community and I was able to reach my goal, but the real heroes here are Pastor Rodney and the volunteers who come out here every week. And I'm just grateful I was able to be part of it," Halle Toya said.

The United Way of Gaston County presented a check of more than $7,000 raised by WCNC during the Make a Difference campaign focused on helping the pantry secure much-needed funds.  In addition, WCNC and the TEGNA Foundation donated $2,000.

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For the past 18 years, Freeman has operated the Bountiful Blessings Food Pantry.  But because of the pandemic, the need for food donations has soared pushing the church's pantry operation to the limit.  Sometimes cars start lining up eight hours before the pantry doors open.

Each week, the food pantry helps more than 2,500 people.

"The look on people's faces as they come through of gratitude is really touching and God bless all of you for what you're doing," Joan Barrett, WCNC president and general manager, said. 

"I am absolutely thrilled and that just to me proves the power of TV broadcast and WCNC," said Leigh Spach, United Way of Gaston County. 

It’s a power everyone at WCNC takes seriously.  A power used to inform the public about a local pantry the pandemic put pressure on to feed more families. The power to motivate others to help. The power to make a difference.

"It’s amazing how sometimes it’s the people who you think are not even concerned about you, they are the ones that actually are," Freeman said. 

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Bountiful Blessings Food Pantry is a 501c (3) nonprofit organization that has played a vital role in addressing hunger and food insecurity within Gaston County. Their purpose is to make certain that the citizens of Gaston County have access to healthy foods. 

Last spring's pandemic shutdown sent demand soaring from 300 people a week to more than 3,700 at its peak.  Many of them had never sought assistance before.

Here is the contact information for Bountiful Blessings. Reach out to them if you'd like to donate or if you are in need of a donation yourself:

Bountiful Blessings Food Pantry
2311 Crescent Lane
Gastonia, N.C. 28052
Office: 704-898-5881
Email: bbfoodpantry@yahoo.com

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