Church marks eclipse by giving out glasses, information to food pantry clients

By Jessica Brodie

WEST COLUMBIA—While some churches across the state had eclipse-viewing parties and other events, one United Methodist church commemorated the historic event in a different way: service.

Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC gave out eclipse-viewing glasses and a handout on the eclipse in in each bag of food for their food pantry customers for the two weeks prior to the eclipse.

“We just thought it would be fun,” said Jim Browning, chair of the Outreach Missions Committee, which oversees the pantry. “They’ve been real excited and all take them.”

Some of the food pantry customers were not even aware of the eclipse, Browning said, “So it’s a fun thing for the people handing out, too.”

The Virginia Wingard Memorial UMC Food Pantry serves roughly 120 families a month in the three zip codes that comprise the St. Andrews area of Columbia. They give out around 30 bags a week, three days a week in the afternoons.

The eclipse materials were another way the pantry tries to stay relevant and service people with a special touch when they can, such as a ham or turkey at Christmastime, bug spray during summer, dental and health care products, and more.

“We try to take the opportunity when it comes along to do something really special,” Browning said.

Ted Jenkins, chair of the church food pantry, said the distribution went well.

“It was a blessings,” Jenkins said. “A lot of low-income families couldn't figure out which way they’d get the glasses, even though they were not a lot of money.”

Jenkins said some were not very aware of the eclipse, particularly the homeless and elderly and those who cannot afford electricity or have a television set.

“We were glad to be able to do that,” Jenkins said. “It was another extension of what God gave us to do.”

The Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center provided the glasses as a gift to the church.

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